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Return of the Obra Dinn – Nintendo Switch review

A year after its release on PC, Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn comes to console. Does this tale of deductive reasoning survive the journey intact?

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Return of the Obra Dinn - Nintendo Switch review
Lucas Pope / 3909

A year after its release on PC, Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn comes to console. Does this tale of deductive reasoning survive the journey intact?

Dearest Reader,

Please find detailed below our account, assessment and recommended course of action pertaining to the release of Return of the Obra Dinn, the work Mr L. Pope, resident of Tokyo, Japan.

Return of the Obra Dinn was previously documented on the occasion of its original publication in the year 2018. At that time ‘the text’ was only available for users of personal computers. During the twelve months since first issuance, Return of the Obra Dinn has been prepared under the stewardship of the Warp Digital company of London, England, for publication on additional platforms. These are listed as being the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and, for the purpose of this report, the Nintendo Switch.

Despite the disturbing nature of this work – examined in more detail below – the publication is made available for public consumption and issued under the descriptor of ‘video game’. Despite this somewhat frivolous nomenclature, do not infer that the contents of this work are to be taken lightly.

Return of the Obra Dinn - screenshot

Fig. 1 – The deck of the Obra Dinn

The ‘video game’ purports to relay the story of the Obra Dinn (Fig.1), a vessel owned and operated by the East India Company of London, England. The Obra Dinn departed London in 1802 and – having not arrived at its destination in the Cape of Good Hope – it was declared lost at sea. Four years later, the Obra Dinn reappeared off the coast Falmouth, England. Its crew and passengers – approximately totalling 60 souls – were declared deceased or missing.

Return of the Obra Dinn requires its reader – hereafter termed ‘player’ for the sake of clarity – to uncover the mystery behind these dreadful circumstances and complete a full account of the ship’s voyage for the sole purpose of assessing any relevant insurance monies owed.

Return of the Obra Dinn - screenshot

Fig 2. – Examining ‘A Catalogue of Adventure and Tragedy’

To determine the cause of death, plight, or otherwise of the ship’s crew and passengers, the player has recourse to use two items. The first is a journal – subtitled A Catalogue of Adventure and Tragedy – which details a plan of the ship, its crew manifest, and paintings from the ship’s artist (Fig. 2). Additional information can be recorded within its pages by the bearer as the inspection proceeds.

The second item is a compass (Fig.3) called the Memento Mori (Latin, remember death). The compass has many unusual properties but none more so than the ability to return its bearer to a cadaver’s exact moment of demise. The compass allows the user to examine the incident and to note and record the specific details of the event. These include the precise nature of death, the presence of other parties and the effect of any outside influences.

Return of the Obra Dinn - screenshot

Fig 3. – Using Memento Mori

A complete account of the ship’s voyage requires the correct recording of every passenger’s name, cause of death or disappearance, and (if applicable) the man or beast responsible. Make no mistake, it is a grisly state of affairs and the task at hand will cast a shadow over all but the darkest of hearts. However, it is a necessary endeavour to ensure the accurate release of monies to those affected by these sorry events.

Through judicious investigation, the player must cross-reference events, people, conversations and interactions. A keen eye is certainly required, as is an ear for a chance remark or muttered name. Each can provide further clues pertaining to the fate of a particular individual or fellow shipmate. Satisfactory progress is a reminder that the role of insurance adjuster is not too distant a relation to the finest minds in Scotland Yard’s employ.

Each completed record leads to another, which leads to another, often presented non-chronologically. It is the task of the player to connect the tissue of these events to tell the full story of the Obra Dinn’s damned journey (Fig.4).

Return of the Obra Dinn - screenshot

Fig.4 – Deduction!

At this juncture, it would be remiss not to make note of the publication’s aesthetic qualities. Despite its sombre nature, Return of the Obra Dinn is presented with a distinctive visual flourish that is a fillip for eyes wearied by other games. The accompanying music – a composition also provided by Mr L. Pope – is of an extremely high standard. It underlines the dramatic and terrible circumstances that took place upon this wretched vessel, as well as providing insight and occasional levity.

In reports dated October 2018, Return of the Obra Dinn was praised without exception by the good people of Fleet Street. It is our opinion that the new edition of the work released for video game consoles is also worthy of such recommendation without hesitation or pause. We hereby place on official record that Return of the Obra Dinn by Mr L. Pope – with assistance provided by Warp Digital – receive a five-star merit.

Return of the Obra Dinn - screenshot

Fig. 5 – Murder!

It is said that man can only know the true nature of humanity once he has looked into the eye of the beast. We pray the events of this sordid tale are never repeated, but we must also acknowledge and give thanks to Mr L. Pope that his work allows us to reflect upon this most terrible of tales (Fig.5).

Yours respectfully,

Daniel New Esq.

Return of the Obra Dinn review
5

Summary


Platform: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Lucas Pope
Publisher: 3909, Warp Digital
Release Date: October 18, 2019


Return of the Obra Dinn makes the journey to Nintendo Switch content and feature complete in a sparkling port from Warp Digital.

The game is, simply put, one of the best ever made. It’s intricate, macabre, involving and essential. It’s aesthetically phenomenal and intellectually satisfying. Like the very best games, Return of the Obra Dinn is an experience that could only ever exist as a game. It’s’ a masterwork of narrative Sudoku and a recommended purchase on any platform.

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Thumbsticks editor, and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Fire Emblem Three Houses, Skyrim (still), and Grid.

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