Are videogames art? That controversial question still has no definitive answer, but there’s one game that doesn’t deserve to be a part of that argument. Developed by German television production company btf, Trüberbrook is a point and click adventure, with environments modelled by hand, and digital characters added in later on in a process known as photogrammetry. You feel like you could just leap into the world through your computer screen.
It really is a beautiful thing. Every environment, although there aren’t a huge amount, has been individually crafted, with the lighting in particular looking absolutely phenomenal. It might not be using ray tracing, but it being based on real life, it doesn’t need it.
Trüberbrook follows the short (approximately 4-5 hours) story of American physicist Hans Tannhauser, who is fortunate enough to win a holiday trip to the titular German village, set in 1967. It’s a nice little place, surrounded by green mountains, typical 17th-18th Century buildings, complemented by a sinister underbelly.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as the art direction is in Trüberbrook, pretty much every other aspect falls way short. The first thing I noticed was the voice acting, which is very jarring against the picturesque environment. As I understand it, the same voice actors (mostly) voiced the German and English parts, and there are times where words are pronounced incorrectly, with no emotional weight added to them whatsoever. Whilst your character, Hans, is American, it’s the same story; it’s as if they’ve all been brought in separately and simply given a bunch of words to read out in a booth.
Gameplay is disappointing too. Progressing the story means clicking everything you can in your immediate vicinity, talking to characters over and over again, or leaving an area and going back in so a character can appear after you trigger another event. These triggers aren’t always clear, and there’s a few times I was wondering around not really knowing where I should be going. Conversely, there were other times when it will explicitly tell you what you should be doing, instead of perhaps leaving a little ambiguity. It’s a fine line, but it never gets it right.
There are other silly little things too, such as in one part you’re given a long list of numbers to remember to send a telegram out. Personally, I like to think I have a fairly good noggin, but it gives you a long list of 30 numbers, with some scrubbed out. Why? I had to take a picture of it on my phone so I at least had a chance of remembering. What could be more immersion breaking than that?
Some of the events to move the story on just don’t seem to link very well together at all, so at times I did get frustrated and ended up repeating the same drab conversations until the next part of the story decided to engage.
The actual story isn’t offering any redemption either. It’s passable, but definitely not a game I will think back on in six months’ time, not even next month most likely. There are a few references in there to other Sci-Fi works, but that tugging of the nostalgia heartstrings isn’t getting anything from me.
All of these shortcomings are such a shame because the techniques they’ve employed to bring Trüberbrook to life are simply fantastic. It’s won animation awards, which are very well deserved. Perhaps it should have been a feature production instead of a game, where you’re tied down to create a (much more difficult) interactive story.
Truberbrook – A Nerd Saves the World (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Unless you’re a die-hard point and click aficionado, it’s difficult to recommend this adventure. One thing is for certain though: It’s not worth its RRP of £24.99.