An East Indian trade boat, the Obra Dinn, goes missing in 1802, somewhere on its trade route between the United Kingdom and China. Five years later, it washes up in port. Deserted. You take the role of an insurance adjuster for the East India Company; armed with the crew muster roll book and a special device that gives you a flashback of a crew member’s death (the “Momento Mortem”,) it’s your task to work out the ultimate fates of all 60 crew members–are they dead, missing, or alive? By filling in the role book for each crewman, the mysterious circumstances surrounding the ship slowly begin to unravel.

At first glance, there’s not much in common between Return of the Obra Dinn and its creator’s last game, the surprise smash hit Papers, Please. The latter is a highly cynical game relying on tugging at the player’s sense of empathy, while this new release is a puzzle-driven adventure story in its most purest form. And yet, both share a unique yet striking combination of nostalgia and uneasiness, whether it’s from the uncomfortable setting of Papers, Please or the self-confessed “indie bullshit” Macintosh-inspired graphical style of Return of the Obra Dinn.

Screenshot of Obra Dinn

Both titles present the player with a slight hint of intrigue, before digging in their claws until the player can’t help but find every scrap of information, striving to solve every single mystery. They’re both about the most gripping and enchanting experiences available in a video game today.

And that’s what Return of the Obra Dinn is. It’s one puzzle–broken up into pieces, sure, with hundreds of clues to put together–but it’s one puzzle; one mystery. What, exactly, was the fate of the Obra Dinn?

Return of the Obra Dinn is now available on Steam for $19.99. For a bit more information, check out our PAX 2016 preview of Return of the Obra Dinn, where we chatted a bit to Lucas Pope about his 1-bit mystery.

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.