With Delirium, A Bavarian Tale – Totgeschwiegen and Atone – Heart of the Elder Tree, we’re checking out three lesser-known indie productions that were recently released and caught our eye.
Delirium review (PS4)
Thanks to Sony’s PlayStation Talents programs, we’ve been seeing a lot of indie production come out of Spain in recent years. Delirium is one such game – a graphic adventure that was inspired by the classic point and click games of the nineties but rendered in 3D and viewed from a first person perspective.
In the game, you control protagonist Lola, a teenager who loves rock and roll and her cat, whom she suddenly finds missing one night. Easier said than done, as you also suddenly find the door to your room locked from the outside. This room acts as a tutorial, letting you get used to the game’s controls and solving its first puzzle in order to get out of the room. This is where you’ll meet your brother Danny, who spends a lot of his time as a content creator and claims to know nothing about the disappearance of Lola’s cat. They join forces, but quickly find out that strange things are happening around them and this isn’t just another regular evening.
Delirium uses a cel shaded look for its visuals, which is definitely striking and novel for a graphic adventure. It’s a rather short game too (clocking in at under two hours), but rather than deliver a short and punchy narrative it relies too much on pop culture references. Unusual Findings did something similar, but that game was a stellar retro-inspired adventure game first and foremost whereas Delirium feels more like a novel concept where style seems to matter more than the actual writing.
Combined with a movement scheme that takes some getting used to (there’s no free movement, making it feel a bit like those pre-rendered adventure games from the early CD-ROM days), this makes Delirium an interesting gameplay experiment that fans of adventure games will enjoy checking out, but it won’t rank among the best of the genre.
A Bavarian Tale – Totgeschwiegen review (PC)
After a period in Early Access on Steam, Active Fungus Studios has launched A Bavarian Tale – Totgeschwiegen. Described as a third-person RPG detective, we were intrigued by both the premise and the German title, which based on our limited German we translated to something along the lines of ‘silenced to death’.
The story takes place in 1866 and follows protagonist Valentin Schmidt as he travels to the town of Wolpertshofen in Bavaria. Here, a violent death shakes up the community, and what follows is an RPG that also feels a bit like Gabriel Knight and Sherlock Holmes – which is quite novel for the genre as this isn’t a traditional graphic adventure game. We could have seen the story working in a game like that though, as this charming village seems to have a dark secret to hide.
The RPG angle makes for a much more open exerience though, letting you explore the town somewhat freely and giving you access to stats and abilities that you can boost, as per the RPG norm. A Bavarian Tale isn’t a typical RPG though, as a lot of the gameplay revolves around searching out clues and finding evidence to help you progress through the case. The RPG approach also makes the narrative less linear than you’d expect, as different decisions can lead to various outcomes. Do you confront a suspect? Do you push hard during an interrogation, or do you keep the peace and maybe miss out on a clue in order to have another opening later? Valentin is also skilled in combat, but you regularly have the choice to avoid it as well.
All in all this is a very ambitious project from a smaller developer, and we loved the local flavor to the game. There’s full voice acting, and although there’s an English dub this is a great game to play in German (with subtitles). The local accents gave it a sense of authenticity, and although the visuals and gameplay would need quite a bit of polish to get anywhere near AAA levels, this is an indie RPG adventure that dares to stand out.
Atone – Heart of the Elder Tree review (PS4)
Developed by Wildboy Studios and published by Untold Tales, Atone – Heart of the Elder Tree came out at the end of last month but wasn’t released for PlayStation until a bit later. If you enjoy Norse mythology, this is one to check out.
As with many stories rooted in mythology, there’s a violent undertone to the story in Atone – Heart of the Elder Tree. An entire village gets butchered by a strange blue force, and protagonist Estra ends up being the only survivor after her dad gives her a special pendant right before meeting his demise. The intro sequence had us thinking that Atone was going to be heavily narrative-driven, but once you get underway in this 10 hour action adventure the Norse influences can be seen much more in the visual style than the dialogue and characters you meet.
Despite some cool-looking cutscenes, the game is more gameplay centered than a story-heavy adventure, and the interesting twist about the gameplay is that combat is handled through rhythm-based mechanics rather than button mashing or tactical combat. You can still achieve combos during these rhythm elements, but they’re of a different variety than you’d expect – and if you don’t have much of a sense of rhythm, you can play the game in story mode to make these sections very forgiving. In addition, you’ll also run into quite a few puzzles, which come with a built-in hint system that oddly punishes you by attaching a cost/penalty to using it – odd because you can just reload a saved game and proceed as you would have without the hint.
How much you’ll enjoy Atone – Heart of the Elder Tree will be down to how much you like rhythm-based gameplay. While you can go with an easy/story mode, the narrative isn’t meaty enough to carry the game, so you’ll want to have the experience as it was intended even though it’s nice to have the option. As long as you’re okay with this, this is a creative new take on the popular Norse mythology ‘genre’ with an eye-catching visual style.