Searching for clues aboard a ship that’s come back from a disastrous journey with nothing but a notebook and magic pocket watch. Return of the Obra Dinn is a unique, mystery-solving adventure that with captivate and delight you.
Return of the Obra Dinn is by Lucas Pope, creator of the 2013’s Papers, Please. This was a game about stamping immigration papers in a totalitarian future. Return of the Obra Dinn is the follow up originally released on PC in 2018 but now has been ported to consoles including Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The Obra Dinn had been lost at sea in 1803, but four years later it’s back minus its crew. Something (or a series of somethings) clearly didn’t go well at sea as the crew are all dead. As someone working for an insurance company, it’s your job to go aboard the ship and try to piece together the clues with a notebook/ship’s manifest and a mysterious watch that will show you details of the moment of death when activated near a dead body.
Return of the Obra Dinn is full of puzzles as there are approx sixty crew member’s deaths to figure out and slowly piece together the overall story of the crew and what happened. The core concept of the game is to study the details you have in the ships manifest and your surroundings to deduce the crew’s fate.
As well as the manifest and notes you have access to a pocket watch that allows you to observe the moment of death for a crewmate in detail. Activating the watch may reveal details like someone being shot and you get to observe the incident in a still 3D rendered scene allowing you to walk around the incident and gather more detail to add to your deductions. Matching up the people in the memory scene to the photos in the ship’s manifest allows you to piece together the relationships of those onboard the Obra Dinn.
Matching up the photos of who-did-what with your memory analysis allows you to start filling in the gaps in your notes, which ultimately leads you to solve the overarching puzzle of the Obra Dinn. This is one interconnected puzzle that will sometimes have you banging your head against the wall. You’ll walk around the ship gathering clues, wondering how these morsels fit together – but stick at it. Obra Dinn may seem tricky at first, but keep going, gathering, collecting and those ‘ah-ha’ moments will come and when they do – it’s a hugely satisfying experience.
As you gather and deduce from learning more about the dead crew of the ship the main story unfurls before your eyes. It has it’s dark tones and the story is captivating and digs deep into your mind painting a perfect picture.
Return of the Obra Dinn has a unique art-style with the 1-bit monochrome style that looks like an early Apple mac. This art style compliments the minimal game perfectly allowing the story and the gameplay to shine. The music, also composed by Pope, is catchy and accompanies you having to look through clues repeatedly.
This is a very specific and deliberate game, with everything in its place and nothing wasted be it something placed onboard the ship right down to the graphics or the music. Lucas Pope has emerged over the last 10 years as a talented designer who can create detailed and surprising worlds. Your world, in this case, is contained to the Obra Dinn and throughout the game, it doesn’t hold your hand so the puzzles can be challenging, but that adds up to a satisfying experience.
Return of the Obra Dinn is a joy to play with a unique art style and full of memorable moments. From the moment you solve your first clue your teased to find the next one and from there I was in, I couldn’t put the game down. This was many’s games of the year 2018 and now has new life breathed into it in 2019 with the release on consoles. Definitely one to check out.
Developer: Lucas Pope
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: October 18th 2018 (PC), October 19th 2019 (consoles)