Truberbrook – Review
In Truberbrook, an American scientist must uncover a mystery in a sleepy 1960s West German village. Sind wir willkommen? Here's what we think.
You’ve stepped past the mysterious doorway that you’ve been eyeing for ages. It’s cripplingly dark inside, and you’re a quantum physicist in the 1960s. Do you ask around for a flashlight, a lantern, or a candle? Do you decide to make do with the innkeeper’s lighter? No, in Truberbrook, you kick a street lamp to attract fireflies, then capture the fireflies in a jar, and finally, use the jar of fireflies as a light source.
Such comedic logic should be all-too-familiar to fans of classic point-and-click adventure games, particularly fans of the Monkey Island series. Nostalgia for silly narrative puzzles is what drives Truberbrook’s gameplay. It’s also what holds the game back
The game is set in 1967, when American scientist Hans Tannhauser wins a mysterious lottery and finds himself vacationing in the remote German village of Truberbrook. On his first night there, Hans finds a glowing thief stealing his paper on physics. He immediately sets off to find the thief and recover his paper. Naturally, this means uncovering the secrets of the town.
There’s a lot to love here, starting with the balanced tone. There’s a definite layering of ‘weird’ science-fiction, calling to the likes of Twilight Zone and The X-Files (not to mention Twin Peaks), all while being tempered with a loosely comic sensibility. It doesn’t veer towards either side too much, which is what makes the game’s narrative direction feel all the more curious. Is it going to end up goofy? Is it going to be more serious? More on that later.
What’s unquestionably attractive about the game is the way it looks and sounds. Meticulously handcrafted environments and physical lighting make for lifelike visuals, combining with crisp, spatial voice acting and sound effects.
The result is an uncommon physicality that the game proudly wears on its sleeve. At every point in the game, I felt like I could reach through the screen and touch the game’s world. Truberbrook sports some of the best-looking visuals of the year so far, making it a masterwork in both art and technical design.
A particularly nice touch was that the game shares much of its German voice acting cast with the English version, resulting in authentic German accents. The delivery is perfect most of the time, which particularly lends to the game’s characters feeling alive.
Even the general gameplay has been refined for modern sensibilities. You get a comfortable point-and-click UI that lets you inspect, talk to, or interact with objects in the environment. You also get a hotspot indicator showing you where the interactive objects are. You don’t even have to manually drag out items from your inventory, because the game automatically shows you the appropriate option in-context. The gameplay design is streamlined and it cuts out a lot of the meta-thinking involved in point-and-clicks, such as testing every object with other objects, or pixel-hunting for interactive objects.
You can probably tell that I’m getting all the nice words out of the way early, because yes—Truberbrook has problems.
Chiefest of the game’s issues is that its story is just too shallow. Truberbrook already has a short playtime of roughly 5 hours, but you’ll spend most of that time walking around and solving puzzles that add little to the narrative.
When the story does advance, it leaps forward without a care. By the time the game ended, it made me feel like I’d skipped past entire sections of the story. So much time and care has been put into the game’s creation, but it all feels paper-thin because the story never really gets explored.
The characters you meet are little more than props, with only perhaps one seeing a meaningful arc. Despite their laboured design and acting, you never get to engage with them on a level beyond using them as tools to further your puzzle-solving. Even Hans is a serviceable protagonist, but he falls far short of the charm and spunk necessary for a likeable adventure hero.
Not being able to weave a compelling tale is a cardinal sin for an adventure game. By focusing on puzzles with far-fetched logic, the game calls to attention the worst parts of classic adventure games while ignoring the best parts.
Even though Truberbrook looks and sounds fantastic, its obtuse puzzles and forgettable storytelling make it difficult to recommend.
Country of Origin: Germany
Publisher: Headup Games, WhisperGames
Release Date(s): 12 March 2019 (PC, Mac, Linux), 17 April 2019 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch)
This review of Truberbrook is based on a copy provided by the publisher.
For more information on Truberbrook, have a look at our coverage of the game.