STAFF REVIEW of Albert and Otto (Xbox One)

Monday, February 5, 2018.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Albert and Otto Box art When Playdead released LIMBO, it struck gold and delivered a timeless game that many will remember for decades to come. However, as is always the case with this type of success, those involved open themselves up to imitation, clones and genre peers. In the years since LIMBO's release, there have been a good amount of similar titles, some of which were good and some of which were bad. One of the better ones is Albert & Otto, a title that just made its way to the Xbox One after debuting on Steam and OS X back in 2015.

Originally planned as a four-episode journey, developers K Brothers’ game has yet to see the release of its second episode, and it seems like it probably never will. Years have gone by without updates, so it’s looking like what’s there is all there’ll ever be. However, while this has prevented the game from being everything it could’ve been, and has kept it from delivering a full story that has a beginning, middle, and end, its' sole episode is still worth playing. You just need to go in knowing that you’ll start off confused and finish in the same state.

The events of this mostly grayscale indie take place in 1939 Germany. There, a boy sets out in search of a mysterious girl with rabbit ears, who communicates with him through pictures that have strange messages written on them. She and her friends are in trouble, well, it seems that way, and they have been locked up somewhere. At least, that’s what I got from them.

As the title suggests, our silent protagonist (Albert) is not alone. It isn’t long before he climbs some trees and meets a new friend, that being a red rabbit like creature named Otto. The two then become reliant on each other to solve puzzles, using Otto’s abilities, some of which are not made available until later on in the episode. His base powers are good enough at the beginning though, as they allow Albert to not only double jump, but also use switches that he otherwise would not be able to if he was by himself. This is handled through a mechanic in which the boy can drop the rabbit, then pick him up again later on.

Over the course of the first episode’s two-hour runtime, Otto’s abilities progress into supernatural territory. At one point he becomes able to use telekinesis to move objects and animals, both of which are usually needed for platforms. There are, however, times where innocent sheep must be lit afire and used for light, or dropped into green hued water as piranha bait. Who knew sheep could be so versatile and useful?

Otto’s other power involves electricity, and sets up quite a few puzzles wherein he must be used to return power to dormant switches. Sometimes this involves nothing more than leaving him in front of one and pressing X, but more often than not things are more involved, presenting challenges where Otto must slide down slopes, use his electric powers at the right moment, and then get picked back up again before he falls to his doom. Hell, this even comes into play during the episode’s final (of two) boss battles, which is itself a puzzle instead of anything combat-based.

In actuality, both of the game’s bosses must be dispatched using the game's familiar physics puzzles, some of which are timed and don’t offer much in the way of leniency. You’ll need to be fast in order to best both of them, and will need to take into account the fact that the characters can die independently. If left alone, Otto can succumb to a fall, or to a laser shot out of a boss’ eyes, just as well as Otto does when landing on spikes.

For the most part, the puzzles in Albert & Otto are switch-based, with some involving the aforementioned electrical switches, and others involving those that need to be pressed either by a character’s weight or a box of some sort. Thus, it’s very much like LIMBO, and that inspiration carries through to its art style, which is limited in colour to the point where it’s predominantly grayscale.

This is not an exact LIMBO clone though, thanks to the double jump ability and Otto’s aforementioned powers, as well as a rifle that Albert can use to kill evil crows who wish to eat him for breakfast. This is done using a simple mechanic that combines the right joystick’s 360-degree arc for aiming and the right trigger for shooting.

That said, the inspiration is once again the better game here, with Albert & Otto presenting a merely decent puzzle/platforming affair that borrows heavily from the Playdead classic. Sure, there is a lot to like here, but there’s no denying that things are rough around the edges, due to some unfortunate lag, a few disappointing puzzles and controls that sometimes fail the player at the worst possible time. It doesn’t help that this game may never be finished, leaving this sole episode’s story and ending a point of confusion for those who’ll play it. It does, however, nail a creepy atmosphere, with a mixture of dark and light colours, some sparsely used but haunting music, and some decent sound effects.

Albert & Otto is a game that should appeal to those who’ve been itching for more LIMBO-style gameplay. That being said, anyone who buys it needs to know they’re not getting a full game for their money, as it is only the first episode of what is yet to be a full story. Then again, it’s not like this thing is over in minutes, given that it at least offers a campaign that hovers around the two-hour mark depending on player skill, and one in which going off the beaten path is rewarded with collectible shards.

Overall: 6.1 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.2 / 10
Sound: 6.1 / 10


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