South-African studio Skobbejak Games has made its second game, called ‘n Verlore Verstand, which is Afrikaans for ‘a lost mind’. This early access title will take you through several dream-like settings in which you have to solve puzzles. It’s also VR-compatible, which is probably its only selling point.
The description of the game, on both the Steam and Xbox One platform, starts with the following lines:
“In ‘n Verlore Verstand you will be transported to a reality of dreams and nightmares. What will you discover about yourself in this journey through the subconscious?”
Now, the first sentence is true, or rather true-ish. See, the game itself never tells you what the setting of the story is. You start the game and are immediately put in the first level, without any intro or text that gives you some explanation. In the distance you see a lone tree, so you walk towards it. You reach the tree and are then transported to the first puzzle. To reach the end, you have to solve 15 puzzles. Not once during the entire game is there any explanation about what’s exactly happening or what your character’s goal is. Even the ending is a lazy fade-to-black sequence that doesn’t tell you anything. So in the end, you can only guess at what happened.
The second sentence in the description is just a blatant sales pitch. Don’t think that this game will let you “discover” anything about yourself. The only thing that you’ll “discover” is how cheap this game feels and plays. I’m not trying to rage here or anything, but making your game sound like it’s a personal journey while in reality, it’s just a simple puzzle game, is just stupid.
Puzzles with quotation marks
The gameplay of ‘n Verloren Verstand isn’t that great either. It’s rather dull and uninspired, to be honest. You have to solve 15 different puzzles that are placed in different settings. The issue, however, is that these puzzles are so easy that it quickly becomes a bore. One of the levels has you jump around these floating rocks that you have to unlock by walking through fire gates. Here’s the issue with this “puzzle”: you basically have to follow one path that is laid out to pass through the fire gates in the correct order. Can you take a wrong path or pass through the wrong gate? No, you can’t, which is why it fails as a puzzle. What satisfaction can you get from solving a puzzle if there’s no challenge or fail state? Another example of this is a road you have to cross while avoiding trucks that come from both directions. While getting hit by a truck does spawn you back to a checkpoint, it incredibly easy to avoid them. You can see and hear them from miles away and are also rather slow, making getting hit by them a challenge on its own. In short, if you’re looking for a game with good or even decent puzzles, this is not the one.
‘n Verlore Verstand features some interesting visual design choices but combines this with subpar graphics and bland sound design. Textures are repeated way too often, lighting effects are either acceptable or non-existent and the audio effects sound like they are taken straight from a stock website. It’s disappointing that the graphics and sounds are of such low quality because some locations have good design concepts behind them. For example, a sun-red sky with pillars falling down on a vast wheat field or a block of skyscrapers that’s completely surrounded by rows of highways. The ideas themselves are good or at least interesting, but the graphics hurt the impact these designs could have.
Not everything about this game is terrible, however. For example, it doesn’t seem to suffer from any bugs or glitches. Now, normally this should be the norm with videogames, but this game is made by a team of two people that have made only one game before this one. With all the recent AAA-titles that were filled with bugs and glitches at release, it’s kind of amazing to see two people being more competent at QA than entire companies consisting out of +150 programmers and animation artists.
Another good thing about ‘n Verlore Verstand is that it’s VR-compatible with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift platforms. The VR doesn’t change the gameplay that much, but it’s pretty smooth and makes immersing yourself a little easier. It’s far from a must-have title for VR-players, but its selling price of €15 makes it one of the cheaper VR-titles on the market right now.
‘n Verlore Verstand is simply put not a good game, in the sense that it doesn’t challenge the player with its easy puzzles and non-existing narrative. Yes, it’s made by only two people that don’t have that much experience with game design, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t at least try to make decent puzzles.
Score 2 out of 5: