STAFF REVIEW of Truberbrook (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Truberbrook Box art Some of my favoring gaming memories from my childhood stem from point and click adventure titles like Maniac Mansion, Sam and Max, Day of the Tentacle and The Secret of Monkey Island, among many others. Two years ago, Thimbleweed Park released, and I absolutely fell in love with it, as it hearkened back to a time when gaming was different. I truly miss the genre, as it’s not as popular anymore these days and very few games release in this style, so when one does, I jump on the opportunity as fast as I possibly can.

I’m not exactly sure why the genre died out, but I surely do miss it. For whatever reason, I always make a bunch of new memories every time I play a new point and click adventure, and the newest game to enter the genre, Truberbrook, is no different.

While point and click adventure titles aren’t common anymore, nearly almost every single one I’ve played permeates that it was designed and created with a ton of heart and love. You can tell that a countless hours of blood, sweat and tears went into crafting the experience, and Truberbrook is the same, though possibly even more so once you learn that the world was literally crafted by hand.

Inspired by X-Files and Twin Peaks, Truberbrook tells a sci-fi mystery tale set in a small German village, Truberbrook, in the 1960’s. You play as Hans Tannhauser, a physicist who won a lottery for a free vacation to the remote village of Truberbrook, yet he doesn’t remember entering any lottery or contest; thus begins your adventure and mystery to solve. Hans was suffering from writer’s block, so he fully intends to use his time in this minuscule remote village to relax and reset, though like any good adventure, it won’t be that simple by any means.

Hans is staying in a quaint hostel where he’ll meet Gretchen, an anthropologist doing some research in the same rural village. What are the chances that two outsiders are in an unknown town at the exact same time? He later awakens to someone stealing his work, yet mysteriously disappears when he tries to stop them. This is where your quest to save the world begins, complete with a ton of unique and memorable characters, filled with a ton of humor.

Unless you’re my age, or have an affinity for classic titles, there’s a good chance that you possibly haven’t played a point and click adventure title in recent years, which is no fault of your own, as the genre simply doesn’t really exist these days when gaming is dominated by Battle Royals, Shooters and AAA titles. You control Hans within each scene, moving him around free, looking for items to inspect and interact with, along with other characters to converse with to obtains clues of what to do next.

You’ll also have a cursor that you can freely move around, and if you hover over an interactive object, a radial wheel will appear in the corner, showing you your current options. If you have items that can be used on it, or that Hans thinks should, it will also give you that option as well. I hope you have patience though, as Hans walks infuriatingly slow, and while you can hold down the Right Trigger to walk slightly faster, it’s not even at a power-walk pace. Given that you’re going to be doing a massive amount of backtracking and walking through scenes many times, it can become frustrating, though you simply need to deal with it.

The big hook about games in this genre is that you’re constantly solving puzzles in a myriad of different ways. You’ll need to find item A to give to person B, whom will give you item C, which is then used on object D. Sometimes you’ll need to combine items in odd ways to craft a new object which then has to be used, and these are usually the most abstract puzzles that reduces you to attempting to use every item with every other item.

Why such abstract puzzles are a big part of the genre I’m not sure, but Truberbrook doesn’t fall into this same trap. Instead, there’s no manual item combining thankfully, and if you need to use three different items on a specific object, it’ll automatically show you that they are being used together. While purists might find this a little too simplistic, I enjoyed not wasting hours randomly trying to combine items. Also thankfully, there are no red herring items within Truberbrook. These are items placed in other point and click adventures that have on real use, simply put in to make you think they are important. While some of the puzzles were a little challenging, it was more due to me not seeing an item I could have picked up and clicked on due to it blending into the background, but that’s on me given that you’re able to press a button and see all of the interactive objects in a scene, highlighted with a small 'X' mark, almost like a hint system. I’m not ashamed to admit I needed to check a walkthrough once or twice, but none of the solutions were unreasonable, it was simply me not thinking straight.

I truly did enjoy my time in Truberbook, but there were a few issues I ran into that couldn’t be ignored. Firstly, there’s no manual save option, and there’s no real indication when your last auto save happened either. One night I had to end early to head to bed, got to a new chapter and figured it saved once I did. I was wrong, as I reloaded my game and lost an hour of progress. When I replayed a certain sequence, the person I was talking to wouldn’t progress to the dialogue that I knew I needed because I’ve already done it previously. This required me to restart the game all over again from the beginning, which brought up my second frustration; you are unable to skip any cutscenes.

I understand that the developers want you to experience their game in full, as time and effort went into the cutscenes, but when I’m replaying the game for a second or third time, sometimes I’d rather not sit through it again. To add onto the lack of manual save frustrations, there’s also no chapter select, so if you’re achievement hunting and want to replay a certain section, you’re going to have to restart all over from the beginning. Lastly, on the majority of the scenes you explore, you simply can’t walk from one to the next. Instead, you need to click on the door or side of the screen and interact with it. A deal breaker by no means, but just an odd design decision that adds unneeded effort.

I also had a major game crash at the very end of my game during the credits, denying me my completion achievement, which was quite disappointing, as you can guess how far back my last auto save was. There are technical issues as described above, but even so, I truly enjoyed my time within Truberbrooks gorgeous world. Sure I could nitpick about the odd spelling mistake or punctuation with the subtitles, or that the cursor isn’t very friendly when there are two items beside one another and you’re trying to select a specific one, but these didn’t detract from the overall experience.

Interestingly, there’s even a ‘Kid Friendly’ mode in the options that has absolutely no explanation as to what it does or changes in the game. As it turns out, it makes some minor changes to Truberbrook, such as making it so none of the characters smoke, or that a scene where you find a “Personal Massage Device” to trade for another item, are altered. It would have been great to know what this option did beforehand, but it’s great to see an option at least for those parents then don’t want specific situations shown who game in front of their children.

What makes Truberook stand out amongst the competition is undoubtedly its unique and impressive visual style. You see, every backdrop in the scenes Hans explores is actually hand crafted miniacture sets that were then 3D scanned and digitally put into the game. Creating actual miniature models for every scene makes it even more impressive, especially when you see the fantastic opening credits. This makes for a very unique artistic style, and it works beautifully. There’s so much detail put into each scene, and when you remember that it’s an actual miniature, it’s even more extraordinary.

Audio is almost just as impressive as well. Every character is fully voiced in your choice of English or Deutsch and the acting itself is well done for the most part. Side and minor characters’ performances aren’t as impressive or captivating as Hans and other main characters, but that’s to be expected. The only anomaly I found was that sometimes the spoken dialogue and subtitles didn’t always perfectly match up, or that dialogue was cut short, which I assume is from translation timing. The soundtrack is fantastic as well and very fitting for the type of mysterious adventure. The opening cutscene song was very memorable and this is one of the games I’m going to attempt to find an OST to purchase.

If I had to simply think of one word to describe Truberbrook, it would be charming. It’s clear that it was crafted as a labor of love, and the impressiveness with its visual style is beyond remarkable. Games like Truberbrook bring back a flood of memories to my favorite point and click adventures from my childhood, and I can easily add this to my list of my favorites in the genre. While it’s not perfect, it’s remarkable, memorable and pleasure to experience.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.7 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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