The Return of Obra Dinn isn’t the sort of game you expect to play at a convention. Amidst all the flashing lights, loud music, and cosplayers, you don’t really want the sort of game that demands your undivided attention. That said, despite its self-admitted “indie bullshit” 1-bit Macintosh stylings, Obra Dinn has the same drawing effect that made Lucas Pope’s last game, Papers, Please!, so successful. The constant, unwavering sense of mystery and intrigue. The desire to pull back just one more layer of the curtains and peer inside, piecing the very limited plot and backstory together like a jigsaw puzzle that’s missing half its pieces.

An East Indian trade boat, the Obra Dinn, has returned to port after disappearing somewhere on its trade route between the United Kingdom and China. Its entire crew is dead, and the boat is in tatters. You work for the company responsible for the boat’s insurance, and you must go on board and work out how all the ex-occupants died, to ensure the families receive the appropriate insurance payout.

Essentially, Obra Dinn is an adventure story. The player is regularly pushed into time-stop frames of events that happened when the Obra Dinn went down, and expected to piece together fragments of information that are scattered around to work out what’s happened to the ill-fated ship. There’s an ever-present eerie atmosphere that swamps the player; the lack of any other characters apart from the still remnants of the past, and the uncomfortable minimalist music does nothing to put the player at ease. The old Macintosh colour palette with the horrible dark green and off white isn’t used for nostalgia, but more to add to the unnatural feel of the game. It provokes feelings of uneasiness, not just the intrigue that a realistic art style would achieve.

I can’t help but be excited for the Return of the Obra Dinn. One, incredibly detailed, meticulous, conundrum: What happened to the Obra Dinn? Hundreds, if not thousands, of small pieces to put together.

The Return of the Obra Dinn is due to release, maybe, in 2017. You can play the GDC Alpha build here.

 

About The Author

Matt has been playing video games and listening to music for too long. He accidentally started a website and now has to pretend that he’s got an idea as to what he’s doing. He neglects the games he’s meant to be reviewing and instead plays Dota 2 and Football Manager. Shameless Nintendo fanboy. Direct your complaints to @mattmcleod27.