Point and click adventure games were at one point a dominant genre but saw a steep decline in popularity once 3D graphics became mainstream. However, with digital stores available on practically every platform and the ease with which indie games can make their way to customers, these types of titles have seen something of a resurgence in recent times. Truberbrook is the latest point and click game to hit.
Truberbrook immediately sets itself apart from many other similar titles with its setting. Fans of adventure games who are familiar with titles such as Monkey Island, King’s Quest, or Grim Fandango know that these games typically take place in the same kind of places. Fantasy worlds and space stations are standard fare when it comes to this genre, as are bizarre out of this world locations. Where you don’t expect to find yourself is in a quiet German town in the 1960s.
The player takes on the role of Hans Tannhauser, a physicist from the United States who has found himself in the village of Truberbrook after he won a free trip in a mysterious lottery that he cannot even remember entering. This seemingly unassuming setting soon becomes far more interesting as you explore your surroundings and find that not everything is as it seems. A night time robbery sets off a chain of events that lead to a sci-fi mystery narrative, which starkly contrasts with the cosy environment where it takes place.
As the story plays such an important role it wouldn’t be fair to spoil any of the important plot points. What I can say is that there are some very fascinating ideas at play. Truberbrook definitely does enough to intrigue, pushing you forwards to find out exactly what is going on, but it also loses some focus as it draws to a conclusion. Don’t be surprised then if the ending leaves a slight sense of disappointment as it doesn’t truly tie everything together in a satisfying way.
Thankfully, the developers have put the work into other areas to create a pleasing experience. Almost everything that appears on screen has been thoughtfully created with a sense of humour so that even the fairly inconsequential quest items you come across will draw a wry smile. It is the characters you encounter Truberbrook that more than make up for any deficits in the story, though. Each have their own backstory that you can explore through dialogue prompts. Although it isn’t necessary to do so, it adds plenty of depth to the world and gives the appearance that these are genuine people inhabiting a living world. I regularly found myself just leisurely talking to the inhabitants of Truberbrook to find out everything I could about their lives.
Those familiar with point and click adventure games will recognise all of the gameplay in Truberbrook as it plays very much like the classics. Yet, it can also be picked up by almost anyone without any difficulty. This is because the developers have removed many of the genre’s more annoying elements. For example, items will automatically combine together in your inventory to solve certain puzzles rather than leaving you to try endless combinations that may or may not work.
Another welcome inclusion is a button, which is mapped to RB on Xbox One and shows everything on screen that you can interact with. You might think this makes things too easy, but what it really does is just remove the tedious searching of each location for that one particular item you need to progress. Of course, it doesn’t show you where to go or what to do, so it doesn’t entirely take away from the challenge. Outside of these two additions, gameplay is what you would expect: Talk to the various characters you find in the town and collect the required objects to progress through the story.
In terms of the puzzles, most of them do not require a lot of brainpower to solve. For the most part, it is possible to see the logical process you have to go through to get to the necessary solution. None of the puzzles left me with a feeling that I had been cheated or tricked, yet a little bit of lateral thinking might be required for a few. For a point and click adventure, the puzzles are ultimately pretty tame and I’d guess most people should be able to get through the game without having to resort to walkthroughs.
There are a few parts that do feel as if they have been rather clumsily designed, however. Chief among them is the save feature, which prevents the user from manually recording their progress in favour of an autosave system. The only issue is that there is no real way to tell when the game has actually saved anything. Quitting out and then returning only to find you have to complete a lengthy section again isn’t particularly enjoyable. This is only exacerbated by the fact that Truberbrook likes to crash every now and again. I experienced three or four crashes that forced the game to close and took me back to the dashboard. Restarting the game when the autosave last kicked in 15 minutes ago is incredibly frustrating.
Moving around also poses a few problems. Getting Hans where you want can feel very clumsy at times and there is very little precision in how you can get around the town and various other locations. While this doesn’t cause too much trouble most of the time, there are some parts that become infuriating because of it. One specific location, which involves going down some rickety dark stairs, can take an age to get past thanks to an inability to move effectively.
Moving past these minor gripes, undoubtedly the best thing about Truberbrook are the truly wonderful visuals. The developer took a unique approach to creating the distinctive look of the game. Sets were created using 3D models in real life and lit using real lighting. They were then digitally scanned so that they could be put on screen. What this process has done is create some of the most natural and detail rich environments you are likely to see in a video game. Everything also has this lived-in warm glow to it that makes exploring the in-game world a joy.
The same can be said of the audio as well. The soundtrack is memorable and there are some specific tracks that really set the tone, so much so that I would recommend playing with headphones if possible to experience the full effect of the music. Plenty of praise also has to go to the voice acting, which is performed very well. There is sometimes an issue with conversations ending prematurely so that the last few words are cut off. However, it is something that only happens once or twice.
Truberbrook is easily one of the best point and click adventure games available on the Xbox One. Its lush graphics and brilliant audio set it apart from most efforts, while the unique setting draws you into the mysterious plot. Of course there are some minor issues that can be frustrating and the story does begin to unravel slightly towards the end, but the main complaint is that it is just too short, lasting only a couple of hours in total.
Truberbrook is a truly charming point and click adventure game that gets most things right. The issues that are present are more than outweighed by the brilliant visuals, great audio, and enjoyable cast of characters.
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