STAFF REVIEW of Cosmic Top Secret (Xbox One)


Wednesday, May 19, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Cosmic Top Secret Box art I’ve always enjoyed history. Back in high school I had a great teacher that made the dry material and date memorizations actually digestible, so I’ve always been fascinated with reading about what’s happened in our world, hopeful to learn from the mistakes others have made previously. Many would most likely find history fascinating, but truth be told, simply reading about it can be daunting and very hard to focus when it’s in textbook form. Movies help this somewhat, as I’m sure almost everyone has seen a great war movie that retells a specific historic event, but these usually are embellished to make for a more entertaining watch. Documentaries are great and addictive to watch, but sometimes tend to fall down the same hole of being quite dry to take all in.

This is where gaming comes in. Sure there are games that have historical accuracies or lets you play in a specific battle, but doesn’t do much to outright teach you about its history in the traditional sense. Cosmic Top Secret looks to change this, telling a unique story while also giving a serious history lesson along the way, but in a digestible and entertaining way without bombarding you with too many terms, dates and other distractions.

Based on an actual documentary, Cosmic Top Secret is based on an actual audio documentary made by Trine Laier. Her parents worked in the Danish Intelligence when she was growing up, apparently as spies, so she wanted to interview them and find out more about their past. Because of the nature of the subject matter, Cosmic Top Secret actually needed official clearance from Danish authorities to be released, as there’s some interesting situations and facts within that have now been deemed declassified.


The title isn’t just a fancy name either, Cosmic Top Secret is an actual term that NATO uses for top confidentiality, even higher than the ‘Top Secret’ classification. You play as Trine, “T” for short, as you talk to your dad about their time in Intelligence and explore areas based on the facts and stories being told. The stories are brought to life with a cast of characters you’ll meet along the way or in collectible clues as you explore. More like a storyboard playing out than a traditional type of game, Cosmic Top Secret has a very unique look and objective, so don’t expect it to really be like anything else out there.

Given that the whole point is to uncover secrets that your dad is telling you about his time during the Cold War, I don’t want to spoil any of the revelations, but I was constantly wanting to learn more as the stories went on, getting closer to that Cosmic Top Secret clearance and ultimate reveal. There’s more emotional ties that are included as well, some unexpected, but help paint the broader picture and more about T’s secrets and life. It actually makes me wonder how much I actually know about my parents and their lives when I was growing up.

Unfolding like a storybook, Cosmic Top Secret has a very unique and distinct artistic style, as it appears it's been made from paper cutouts and cardboard, with some abstract flair for good measure. You control T within five separate stages, each of which becomes higher in its security clearance as you progress. T is made out of paper, so when she moves she rolls into a crumpled paper ball or gets thrown about when she jumps a far distance. It’s quite odd at first to witness, especially since characters, T included, all have large googly-eyes, but the oddity of it makes it that much more memorable and unique.


With five main stages to explore, each one lasting roughly an hour or so, there’s tons of items to collect and find, along with hidden secrets as well. The story naturally progresses as you find collectibles, usually resulting in a picture or video from the object you found as you start to piece together the overall narrative. To complete a level you’ll need to find all the required objects, most of which are simple enough to find, but sometimes you’ll need to use your head as to where to go next.

Given that this is a game about secrets, not everything is going to be handed outright to you, forcing you to do a little exploring and thinking. As you find recordings, pictures and intel, more is shared about T’s life, her parents or events that took place during that period in the timeline of events. Once all nine required objects have been found to complete the stage, you’ll need to find the exit door and figure out the passcode. This is where some light puzzle elements come into play, forcing you to relook at the clues you’ve found and figure out the correct digits’ order to unlock the door. None of these are terribly challenging, and I really only had issues with one puzzle section, having to brute force trial and error my way through, but this adds a sense of accomplishment like you’ve decoded some sort of secret; fitting for this adventure.

You’ll be exploring these main stages, even more in depth if you want to find all the collectibles, but this is where one of the main issues rears its head: movement. T turns into a crumpled ball of paper when she’s not standing still, and seems to roll as smooth as you’d expect one to. Trying to be accurate and move in straight lines was a challenge the whole way through, and in the beginning stages this isn’t much of an issue, but there’s a weird thing where T can’t move in the opposite direction the camera is facing. When you’re attempting to make small adjustments on narrow pathways so you don’t fall later on, a little frustration can set in. There are other weird glitches like simply not being able to fall off an edge at certain times or awkward controls when T turns into a paper airplane, but I understand this indie game was created with a small team and is meant to be a deeper experience overall, so it’s somewhat forgivable.


The 2D characters in a 3D world look like paper cutouts, somehow fitting for the scenarios and setting. It’s very abstract, but that’s what gives it a certain charm. Yes, the level design is quite bland and basic, and characters look bizarre with their large googly-eyes, but it makes it feel more authentic in an odd way. While everything is voiced, it’s not in English, so you’ll need to be reading subtitles the whole way through, unless you speak Danish of course.

I initially expected Cosmic Top Secret to be a quick humor filled game solely basing it at first glance from its goofy visuals and artistic flair, but instead got an interesting documentary about a daughter interviewing her dad’s secret life as she was growing up during the Cold War. If Cosmic Top Secret was going to be reviewed and based solely on its “game-ness”, it wouldn’t be very exciting or fun and score much lower, but given that it’s an interactive documentary about really interesting subject matter if you’re into history, it somehow works as a complete package, as I see what its overall purpose and goal sets out to be.

I’ve never really experienced anything like Cosmic Top Secret before; part game, part documentary, where I actually learned quite a lot of fascinating information about the Danish Intelligence and Cold War. This makes me think that gaming could be an interesting format and medium for teaching history to gamers, but in a unique way that could resonate, as even days after completion Cosmic Top Secret still lingers in my head and I'm glad to have experienced it. Ending Transmission...

**Cosmic Top Secret was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**




Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10

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