Trüberbrook was, undoubtedly, a labour of love for its developers.
The mildly baffing decision to create real sets and scan them in as the game’s background pays off; Trüberbrook is one of the prettiest point-and-click adventures you’re likely to play. And, as you wander through the titular German town, you’ll gleefully mull over the unfolding mysteries. What mysterious fate befell Gretchen, the woman you played as during the game’s brief prologue? And how did Hans Tannhauser, the quantum physicist now under your control, manage to win a competition he never entered?
Half an hour later, your curiosity will have been replaced with indifference; as lovely as it is to look at, Trüberbrook is a disappointingly middling game. The game’s story is relatively engaging, and your quest takes you through a variety of aesthetically-pleasing locations including an retro-futuristic laboratory, an upmarket sanitarium and the town itself. But there’s no real joy in the journey – and that’s due, in part, to Hans himself.
Playing Trüberbrook, I got the feeling that Hans was supposed to be a loveable fool in the mould of Monkey Island’s Guybrush Threepwood. But he lacks the personality traits that made Guybrush Threepwood interesting; in fact, he lacks any personality at all. Trüberbrook’s voice acting is a real mixed bag but Hans himself sounds like he’s reading out his shopping list.
This is especially apparent when you meet Gretchen again who, in comparison, actually sounds like she wants to be there. I’d have found Trüberbrook significantly more palatable if I’d stayed in her shoes. Instead, she’s relegated to being a secondary character despite being infinitely more interesting than Hans. Most of the game’s characters are, in fact, more interesting than Hans.
True, Trüberbrook isn’t the first game to sport a bland protagonist – but it lacks the gameplay to make you overlook his mundanity. Trüberbrook, like many other point-and-click adventures, features a wealth of puzzles, but for the most part they’re so utterly and bafflingly illogical that, when you do solve them, you don’t feel any sense of accomplishment.
I’d normally shy away from spoiling a game’s puzzles, but in Trüberbrook’s case, I feel justified in doing so, just to give you a taste of the madness that awaits you. Here are the steps you need to take in order to solve one specific conundrum:
- Look under your bed to find a “massage rod”.
- Give the massage rod to the landlady who will give you a fishing rod.
- Use your tape recorder on the table of food to get the maggots.
- Go fishing in the lake; you’ll discover a can opener.
- Finally, throw the can opener at the statue of a knight to make it fall apart and collect his armour.
Bear in mind that there’s no indication that the landlady even has a fishing rod to begin with, or that there’s anything of interest in the lake that could help you. Also, just looking at the table of food doesn’t reveal the maggots; you have to make Hans speak into his voice recorder to make them appear.
There’s no logic whatsoever to this chain of events. It’s not surprising that Trüberbrook will highlight all interactable objects if you press the space bar because you’ll end up clicking every object and combining your inventory with every other object until you get something approaching a solution. As such, puzzle solving is more of a chore than the source of entertainment it really should be.
Trüberbrook isn’t without its charm, though. Despite the dull protagonist, the game’s story is engaging, and the smatterings of humour will occasionally raise a smile. Equally appealing is Trüberbrook’s graphical style, particularly when you’re able to behold the backdrops in all their glory. But considering how many logic-defying hoops you’ve got to jump through and the company you’ll be keeping, the journey to Trüberbrook is only for the patient.