Return of the Obra Dinn Review | October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn has drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. As insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatch immediately to Falmouth, find means to board the ship, and prepare an assessment of damages.
Developer: Lucas Pope
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch
Touchscreen Compatible: No
Do you like murder mysteries? Check ✅
Do you like the 19th century? Check ✅
Do you like to pretend that you are gaming from a classic 1980s console? Check ✅
Well if so, this puzzle game might just be for you.
There Goes My No Claims Bonus…
You are an insurance investigator in the 19th century, assigned to find out what happened to the 60 disappeared crew members and passengers of the Obra Dinn. Did some survive? Did some meet a tragic fate? How did they die? That’s for you to investigate.
To help you deduct what has happened, you have a guide book with useful references (that you write in every time you find new information), alongside a pocket watch that is used to travel back in time, pin-pointing specific events on the ship. The events are a combination of dialogue between Obra Dinn personnel and a freeze-frame diorama (with dramatic music included!); often including the tragic fates quite graphically! There are ten major events in total, which are broken down into multiple parts.
What I especially like in all of this, is the minimalistic aesthetics that come together to create a fully immersive experience. Lucas Pope proves that you don’t need flashy animations and special effects to make you feel like you are in the game. Even the graphics hark to a time of the 1980s IBM/Zenith/Commodore aesthetics. Furthermore, you can change your monitor output in the options, based on your choice of colour/console preference! I went for the IBM5151 green/black look; really cool feel and easy on the eyes!
Full Speed Ahead!
The control in short, is excellent. Player controller movement is universal; left stick to move forward/back/left/right and the right stick to turn. What really sticks out however, is the level of descriptive detail in choosing analog stick sensitivity. Instead of a slide bar like most games, Obra Dinn has actual descriptions of sensitivity choices. This made me very confident that I was making the right personal choice in how my character controlled, without the need for trial and error.
Its Like a Murder Mystery, But If You Invited The Whole Neighbourhood!
Obra Dinn has one core game loop; you go back in time, you find out what happened, you take notes, you move on to the next event, or go back to fill in gaps, you decide on the fates of each of the 60.
What is executed, is executed very well. However, for anyone looking for a range of puzzles, they might be disappointed with the lack of variety, alongside finding the core game loop a little repetitive; especially if they are a seasoned escape roomer. If you can look outside of that, there is so much challenging content to get stuck into; mostly from trying to solve the unique combinations of what happened to each of the 60 Obra Dinnites.
There is no explicit hint system, however the game is smart enough to sense when you might be making a huge error due to inexperience, and chime in with useful tips.
Fresher Than The Deep Blue Sea
Have you ever come across a game, where you have to solve a murder mystery on a grand scale, on a 19th century ship using time travel as an insurance investigator? No, me neither. Full marks for originality.
Ship’s Booty Required
Obra Dinn is priced around the £17.99 mark for all consoles and steam. A well-skilled puzzler might complete this in around 5-7 hours, but for others it may take much longer. Plus the potential replay-ability value to try and get all 60 fates correct, certainly justifies its price tag. Furthermore, independent developer… so show the love!
For Captains or Cabin Crew?
Fair warning, this game has a steep learning curve. I would recommend this to experienced puzzlers. There is a lot to remember and reference back to; in order of having a successful game outcome. That being said, if you fancy the challenge, don’t let me stop you.
Concept & Immersion – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing)
Control – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing)
Puzzles – ⭐️ (Good)
Freshness – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazing)
Value For Money – ⭐️⭐️ (Great)
Overall – ⭐️⭐️ (Great)
This is a great game at a price that is highly reasonable. What it lacks in puzzle variety, it certainly makes up for in other areas such as immersive qualities and originality. Its won a ton of awards too, so go ahead and get investigating!
Return of the Obra Dinn may be purchased on your preferred platform here.
RussBuilds is an independent escape game designer. Here, he is writing on video games and escape rooms in the middle of the UK.