STAFF REVIEW of 'n Verlore Verstand (Xbox One)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

'n Verlore Verstand Box art I’m a big fan of completely quirky and abstract games, so when I read that in ‘n Verlore Verstand I will be “transported to a reality of dreams and nightmares. What will you discover about yourself in this journey through the subconscious?” I was insistently intrigued. I love when developers create something so unique that it can even border on nonfigurative, which is done here, but the other piece to an intriguing game is having an actual entertaining gameplay to go alongside, something that seems to be a missing piece here.

If you’re wondering about the pequliar name, ‘n Verlore Verstand essentially translates from Afrikaan to mean “a lost mind”, which is quite fitting once you experience some of the imagery shown within. I don’t like to generally use the term ‘walking simulator’, but that’s where the core of the gameplay will be derived from, that and terrible first person platforming sections that will have you restarting dozens of times. So get ready and let me attempt to explain the experience of ‘n Verlore Verstand as best as possible.

From the game’s description, I interpreted it as you living through your subconscious, most likely dream sequences. There’s no dialogue, there’s no HUD, there’s nothing aside from you walking, running and jumping your way through each scene. This was a deliberate design choice by developers Skobbejak Games, which I understand, but there’s also no explained meaning of what you’re doing, where you’re going or why. Being that you’re exploring the subconscious, everything you experience and see could be a metaphor, or it could be literal, that’s up to you to determine.

Your only goal is to each this peculiar tree that you can constantly see in the far distance of almost every scene, and when you do so you’ll be whisked away to the next scene, though usually a very different setting. There’s no verbal clues to figure out where you need to go aside from the isolated tree that sticks out amongst the backdrops you’re exploring. You’re left to answer all the questions you have yourself, which can be intriguing, but also create no connection with the game if you simply don’t 'get it'.

The entire game is played in first person view, so I simply assumed I was playing myself in my abstract dreams. Certain items in specific levels can be interacted with by simply walking up to them, like payphones and lights, but your main goal from the start is to walk to a bleak tree located in the distance. The first level is a plain blank world with only the tree in the distance, and that’s how you’re taught that your goal is to find this tree to progress.

The second level transports you to an abandoned mansion with narrow hallways, the perfect backdrop for a horror game, yet there’s no life in these dreams aside from yourself wandering. There’s an almost endless amount of doors to explore and eventually you’ll find a painting of the same tree from before, which will send you off to the next scene. Thus begins your journey across 18 scenes, each becoming progressively more challenging with its platforming controls and level of ambiguous objectives to reach the tree.

The only constant across all of the scenes is that you need to reach this tree for some inexplicable reason. The levels only vary slightly, as some are pure platforming based and a little more involved with figuring out the correct path to the end. Eventually you’ll revisit scenes, but they will be extended slightly, adding more pathways, like hallways and doors in the mansion, or more sections where you’ll need to avoid being run over by drivers on a bridge. If this sounds confusing, it is, but that’s part of its charm, simply soaking up these theoretical experiences, like jumping across floating and moving blocks high above the ground.

Where things start to fall apart is the platforming scenes. Because the gameplay is in first person, you need to jump across blocks and moving platforms where you’re unable to see your feet, so you don’t always know where you’re going to land. You’re going to fail and fall a lot, causing a restart at the last checkpoint, which by the way there’s no indication of, so sometimes you have a long retry ahead of you. Your viewpoint makes it very difficult to judge when to jump off a ledge at the very end, or how far you’re going to jump. The city scene is a great example of this frustration.

There are some things that ‘n Verlore Verstand does very well though, aside from have you experiencing nonsensical imagery. A few of the levels have some fantastic atmosphere, making it feel like you in some sort of dream landscape. The lighting is great most of the time with the sun or moon emitting glows, and with clouds that seem to react to your movements. The soundtrack is great as well, as it sets a mood and tone with its electronic vibe. The sound effects, especially the subtle sounds in the mansion levels create an eerie setting even though you know there are no enemies within.

The latter half of the game becomes a frustrating challenge to slog through, especially a level that has you platforming high in the air, but instead of dying when you fall, you land on the ground below and need to restart from the very beginning all over again by walking all the way back. The scenes where you’re trying to cross a bridge while avoiding traffic is maddening, as you don’t know when or where trucks are coming from behind you before they kill you, forcing you to restart.

If there was an engrossing story that tied all of the scenes together, or at least gave you an overarching reason or explanation, it would have been a more cohesive experience, but instead you get poor platforming gameplay surrounded in abstract interpretation. There are optional colored plants to collect for achievements, but no way to tell which ones you’ve gathered or how many are in a specific scene to collect.

If abstract platforming is your thing, you’ll enjoy ‘n Verlore Verstand, but beware that the mechanics are not fun or entertaining with the first person view, and with a lack of any ‘reason’ to play, you probably won’t feel very connected to the symbolism it represents. ‘n Verlore Vertstand is an interesting concept, but as a game it’s not very entertaining. I fell somewhere in between trying to understand my motives and the visuals for what they mean, but also trying to enjoy a game at the same time. I’m not sure if I ended up accomplishing either.

Overall: 5.2 / 10
Gameplay: 2.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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