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Lorelei and the Laser Eyes review

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes screenshot
Image: Simogo/Annapurna Interactive

The first two words that come to mind as I try and describe Lorelei and the Laser Eyes are “pretentious” and “perplexing”. The next two, however? Compelling and incredible. There’s no doubting that this daring puzzle game from Simogo is ostentatious, sometimes to a fault. And yet, I can’t seem to put it down.

I can’t tell you, exactly, what Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is about, however. You’ve been summoned to the Hotel Letztes Jahr somewhere in the wilderness of Europe to solve a mystery. But this is no ordinary detective mystery game. It’s not just a simple case of whodunnit. There has been a murder — or at the very least there’s a dead body — but that’s just one of many, many strange things that you’ll encounter during your time in the Hotel Letztes Jahr.

Unravelling one puzzle typically leads to unveiling another, and at any one time you’ll have dozens of problems try and solve. What does this puzzle box mean? How do you unlock that mysterious safe? Where’s the key for this door? What does the code on that drawing mean?

Being non-linear in nature, a hundred people could play Lorelei and the Laser Eyes and have a hundred different experiences. There’s no right or wrong way to approach its puzzles and you’re free to tackle them in any order you see fit. There are often so many different things going on, however, that it’s hard to keep track of everything, and you’ll find yourself bouncing from one thread to another, following clues and new leads as they come up.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes screenshot
Image: Simogo/Annapurna Interactive

This is definitely the type of game you’ll need a notebook for — and indeed, publisher Annapurna is selling a specially-designed pad to help you with your playthrough. With pre-printed maps, patterns and glyphs, it’s been an absolute lifesaver for me, and without it, trying to get through Lorelei and the Laser Eyes would have been much more difficult. Has any other game in time necessitated a bespoke notebook? That in itself speaks to Lorelei’s complexities.

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I can’t possibly describe all of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes’ puzzles: there are simply too many of them, and they take many different forms. There are traditional brainteasers, escape room-style puzzles, pattern-based logic problems and a whole lot more. Not everything you’re presented with is compulsory to complete the game, however: there are many optional threads and it’s up to you if you want to solve them (or at least try to).

Because one thing is for certain: Lorelei is not an easy game. Even developer Simogo itself said, in a letter sent to press at the time of preview, it didn’t expect many players to make it through to its conclusion. At the same time, on its website, Simogo says it wanted the game to be “playable by almost anyone”, giving it a simple control scheme for that very reason. But that approach is very much at odds with the content of the game itself. Anyone could pick up and play Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, sure. But I’d wager only a very select few will make significant progress through the game.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes screenshot
Image: Simogo/Annapurna Interactive

It’s not only for its complexities and many puzzles that Lorelei and the Laser Eyes stands out. Aesthetically, this is a striking game: much of it is monochrome, with just a splash of red. It really helps highlight the mysterious and alluring nature of game, making the hotel seem just that more unsettling. Its music design, too, has been carefully thought-out: it’s never silent, but with music players dotted throughout the hotel, you’re given some control over your own sound. Do you want music playing? Would you rather concentrate with the backdrop of ambient sounds. (Or, more pressing, do those music boxes form part of a puzzle?)

That’s the thing with Lorelei and the Laser Eyes: everything in the game exists for a reason. You can’t walk past any object without questioning its purpose, wondering what you’ve missed and trying to figure out what it means. When you do figure it out, it’s a genuinely triumphant win… but more often than not you’ll be left scratching your head, poring through your notes — both in-game and your own written scribbles — and trying to piece together what you might have missed.

Perhaps the only complaint I have is that, if you are stuck, there’s nowhere to turn to. It’s easy to come up against a brick wall, and unless you spot a clue you might have missed before, you might simply find yourself wandering around aimlessly, wondering what to do next. A baked-in hint system would help a great deal; as it is, Simogo seems to be content in the knowledge that a lot of its players will never finish the game — which seems like an odd position to take. Lorelei deserves to be seen through to the end by all players who want to experience it. A little nudge in the right direction wouldn’t hurt, surely?

No game has ever hurt my brain as much as Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, but very few other puzzle games have compelled me to keep going quite in the same way. Its story might be convoluted and, more often than not, nonsensical, but it doesn’t really matter: you’re going to be compelled to push forward as much as you can. Each puzzle you solve is a win in itself — even if its solution simply leads to more puzzles opening up. This is a seriously clever, accomplished game that sets a new bar for Simogo. It’s a studio that’s never been afraid to try something new, but with Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, it’s absolutely knocked it out of the park.

This review of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is based on the PC version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PC and Switch.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes review - GameSpew's score

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes
9 10 0 1
Perplexing and often pretentious, yet compelling and wonderfully accomplished, it's safe to say you won't have played anything quite like Lorelei and the Laser Eyes before. Filled with puzzles and mystery at every turn, once you step foot inside the intriguing Hotel Letztes Jahr, you won't be able to pull yourself way.
Perplexing and often pretentious, yet compelling and wonderfully accomplished, it's safe to say you won't have played anything quite like Lorelei and the Laser Eyes before. Filled with puzzles and mystery at every turn, once you step foot inside the intriguing Hotel Letztes Jahr, you won't be able to pull yourself way.
9/10
Total Score

We like...

  • Truly intriguing from start to finish
  • An excellent mixture of puzzles
  • Constantly keeps you on your toes

We don't like...

  • No in-game hint system
  • Occasionally a little too obscure
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.