Indie Corner: Albert and Otto (PS4/Xone)
Albert and Otto is an indie game that released back in 2015 on Steam as the first part of a four-episode long game (hence the subtitle ‘The Adventure Begins’). While it had a generally positive reception, the game didn’t sell enough to finance the development of the next three episodes. That’s why developer K Bros Games has ported it to the PS4 and Xone platforms, in hopes that the console crowd will give them the opportunity to finish Albert and Otto’s story.
When looking at screenshots or video footage of Albert and Otto, one quickly notices the similarities with the indie hit titles LIMBO and INSIDE. You take control of a young boy in a dark environment that’s visually designed with a minimalistic, yet stylish approach. The goal of the game is to reach the end of a long, side-scrolling level that is filled with platforming segments and puzzles. It also features a narrative that heavily uses symbolism and metaphors in order to tell some heavy topics without showing anything explicit. In Albert and Otto’s case, the story is about a young boy searching for his sister who has been kidnapped by a mysterious force. The boy possesses some supernatural abilities, thanks to his sister’s stuffed animal called Otto. These abilities are necessary to safely traverse Albert’s world, which is Germany in 1939. There are hazards everywhere, including monstrous Nazi-inspired machines.
While Albert and Otto’s premise is certainly interesting, it sadly doesn’t offer that much. The problem with this game, being the first part of four episodes that have yet to be made, is that there’s not much room for the story to develop properly. Just when something interesting is about to happen, the game ends abruptly. With no guarantee that the next three episodes will ever get made, it’s hard to recommend this game for its story.
The gameplay if this game is mostly the same as in games like LIMBO. You jump between platforms and push objects on specific spots like mechanical switches or spikes. But Albert and Otto comes with a few small additions that help to make the game feel less repetitive. Albert can shoot at objects and enemies, levitate objects with the help of Otto and even set sheep on fire. The gameplay is not that deep, but for an indie game, it offers enough variety to keep you interested. There’s one problem though, one that hurts the gameplay experience at times. The controls are a little too floaty, meaning that it’s difficult to accurately control your character. This is most apparent when you’re jumping over a gap to a platform. I’ve often fallen into chasms and spikes because my character didn’t go where I wanted him to go. After a while, I got accustomed to it but that was near the end of the game, so most of my experience was tainted.What helped me get used to the floaty controls was imagining that my character wasn’t falling in a straight line but in a slightly curved one. Maybe this can help you too, should you play this game in the near future.
One of, if not THE strongest component of the game is its visuals. The black and white color palette looks great, especially when something red comes onto the screen (like a burning sheep). The dark backgrounds also help to bring out the dark undertones of the story. Some people might say that it looks a little too much like LIMBO, but that’s debatable. If there’s one negative I had to give, it would be that sometimes the dark colors are used too much, making it difficult to spot hazards, like a black raven sitting on a tree branch in front of a black background. This happened rarely, so I wouldn’t call it a major issue.
The main problem with Albert and Otto is that it’s simply too short to enjoy it. I completed it in less than two hours and it would have been even faster if I hadn’t died so much due to the floaty controls. It has an interesting premise and neat visuals, but it’s clear that this is just a part of a larger game. Hopefully, the next three episodes get made as originally intended by the developer.