Okay, before I start, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. Albert & Otto could well be compared to Limbo. It’s set in a monochrome world, it’s a platform puzzler and you are in search of a missing girl. Limbo checklist is therefore done and complete.
However, delve a bit deeper and you’ll find that both games are completely different in terms of story, gameplay design, innovation, and tricks. It’s okay for two games to have a similar tone. Big games have been borrowing the same FPS model from each other for years and no-one bats an eyelid. Anyways, that’s my moan over.
Albert & Otto was initially released on PC, created as the first of four instalments. Due to lack of funding the other episodes never happened, but now due to the release of this on console, the dream for the makers could once more be alive. The game is set in an imagined land based around 1939 Germany where a boy is in search of his missing sister. He finds a companion along the way – her red toy bunny – and both of them venture into the strange landscape, finding clues to her whereabouts.
Things are set out in a 2D world, with an amazing mixture of backdrops present as you traverse the levels. The story is one without words, but you gain insights and hints of a larger world and darker tone through visuals, hand-drawn pictures left by your sister and a haunting soundtrack. You have just a simple jump button to start you off and a gun which you point with one stick and shoot with RT. The gun isn’t really used that much, suitable for just some pesky crow killing and rope shooting.
When you find the toy bunny though, that’s when you get some extra skills in your backpack. It is then when you can suddenly double jump, or leave your bunny behind in order to control triggers. Later on you can switch electricity on, and levitate certain objects. Then there are the sheep…
There is plenty of amazing innovation in Albert & Otto, from really clever and fiendishly difficult level designs to the use of the bunny, leaving you to decide when to leave or carry it. But the sheep are the funniest and most disturbing use of a white fluffy animal I’ve ever experienced in a game. You first encounter them halfway through the game and you can use them as food for a monster, as something to jump on or by setting them on fire while using the levitation skill… a torch. It’s sick and the screams are terrifying, I can understand now what Jodie Foster was going on about in The Silence Of the Lambs. But it’s a very clever gameplay device and I hate to admit it, but it is very funny indeed. Says I, the vegetarian.
Albert & Otto is however a short experience, coming in at around two and a half hours long; it does feel that it’s just getting started by the end. There are a couple of sections that are very annoying and you’ll die countless times in trying to get them completed. The save points are very generous though and it’s only the boss battles that make you have to restart again and again. The gameplay though is fun, innovative and tricky enough with a good mixture of platforming and puzzles. If you do complete the game there are special shards to collect throughout and hard achievements that might just warrant a replay.
In the looks department, and Albert & Otto comes with a monochrome tone to the whole world, with the odd splash of brilliantly used colour here and there. The red teddy bear sticks out and is a clever piece of visual design. The creatures you encounter are really well drawn and designed with a reference to shadow puppets and German expressionist films. The sheep are a work of genius, the main character is great and the letters you discover along the way show some great comic artwork. You’ll want to take time to glance over at the backdrops as you play, because they tell another story and are fantastic to look at. The sound design meanwhile is a hearty mixture of trance, classical and German folk songs. Its brilliance doesn’t take over the game but blends beautifully with the action on screen. The effects work very well, and those screams from the sheep… I’ll forget about it now I promise.
I have really enjoyed my time in the world of Albert & Otto. It’s a hard but fair platform puzzler with some great level design, innovative sections, great visuals and a cracking soundtrack. It does feel a trifle short, but I hope it sells well and allows the development team to create further episodes in the future. Certain sections will have you pulling your hair out, but you’ll want to persevere because you’ll feel like the king of the world when you get through it.
I’m now going out into the world to find some real sheep and give them my heartfelt apologies.