I played Return of the Obra Dinn the day it came out and I was so impressed right from the start. Not from the art style. Honestly, the art style kind of bugged me although I understand I’m in the minority on that. No, I was impressed because this was a game that trusted my intelligence and attention span enough to not hand me answers. There are no tooltips, no blinking lights that tell you to look here, nothing of the sort. Instead, Return of the Obra Dinn offers you a mystery and tells you to make the journey alone.

I loved that. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to look up some hints on more than one occasion to get through this game but I never once looked up straight answers! There are some pretty subtle details in the game and I stupidly wasn’t taking notes from the beginning like I should have done. When my wife played through it later, she managed the entire game without looking up anything. It’s tough but it is doable.

Ultimately, however much help you need to get through it, the game is satisfying. It feels like an accomplishment to fill out that book completely and piece the story together on your own of what happened to the Obra Dinn. Plus, narrative aside, that music is absolutely amazing. When researching this episode, I heard a bit of the ending theme and it immediately took me back.

To my knowledge, there are no other games out there quite like Return of the Obra Dinn that have this level of polish. There are some similar type games, LA Noire being one that comes to mind, but I can’t think of one I’ve played that felt as tight, intuitive and brilliantly written as Return of the Obra Dinn. I cannot recommend this game enough to those looking for a mental challenge. Oh and no, in case you were wondering, this episode is NOT sponsored.

4/26 – Return of the Obra Dinn

Hello and welcome. My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Yesterday, we went to the early days of console gaming so today, let’s get a little more modern. Today’s game is Return of the Obra Dinn, developed by Lucas Pope and released on PC and Mac in October of 2018.

Return of the Obra Dinn features a boat, the Obra Dinn, which has mysteriously returned to port after being lost at sea for 4 years with no living souls aboard. Players are given a crew manifest as well as a drawing of the crew and are told to identify each person aboard and record how they died. This would be quite impossible except for a special pocket watch which allows players to see back in time to the moment of a person’s death and hear any sounds they heard just before dying.

While it’s a simple enough mystery concept, determine the fates of everyone aboard, Return of the Obra Dinn can be quite difficult and tests player’s logic abilities and knowledge of 19th century culture in some unexpected ways. The game also stands out for its unique art style, which uses monochrome art and dithering effects to mimic graphics on early computers.

Return of the Obra Dinn was created almost entirely by one man, Lucas Pope, the developer of the 2013 hit indie game, Papers, Please. He began development of Return of the Obra Dinn immediately following that game but took almost 5 years to complete it.

Return of the Obra Dinn received high critical praise upon release and was nominated for a number of awards, many of which were for the game’s unique art direction. Among these, the game won the 2018 Game Awards Best Art Direction award and was nominated for Best Independent Game. Return of the Obra Dinn is available on Steam and GOG and while I don’t often give my own personal recommendations for games on this show, Return of the Obra Dinn was my favorite game of 2018 and I recommend it for those of you looking for a more cerebral challenge.

Thank you so much for listening! Today I’d like to announce that next week will be DOS week where we’ll be talking about some well known and some not-so-well-known late 80’s and early 90’s game released on DOS. If you’d like to suggest other themed weeks for the future, let me know your ideas on Twitter @vg_oftheday. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!

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