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Return of the Obra Dinn review for Xbox One, PC, PS4, Switch


Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: 3909
Developer: 3909
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

Last time we heard from Lucas Pope, he had created Papers, Please, the game that proved that even clerical work could be intense in the right setting. Now he’s back with Return of the Obra Dinn, and once again he’s proven that even the most mundane jobs can lend themselves very well to gaming in the right setting.

In this case, you’re playing as an insurance evaluator and — wait, come back, I swear it gets more interesting! See, this insurance evaluator has been sent aboard the newly-returned Obra Dinn, a ship that’s arrived in port with all sixty members of its crew dead. It’s your job to figure out who died where, how, and by whose hand. You do this with the help of a death watch — or, as the game calls it, a Memento Mortem — which helps transport you to the moment of each corpse’s death, where you can watch as the situation unfolds.

As you’d expect, with sixty deaths to get through, this is one morbid game. Crew members are shot, stabbed, and crushed — among the many causes of death — and you need to rewind and rewatch all of them several times to figure out exactly what happened, and to make sure you didn’t miss anything. There are clues aplenty in every scene, and you need to make connections between them figure out exactly what happened.

As for that — the what happened — I don’t want to give anything away, but needless to say, it’s pretty crazy. The story comes out in bits and pieces and gets well into the realm of the fantastical, but it’s presented so well that it always feels worth it.

And speaking of the presentation, that’s one of the neatest things about Return of the Obra Dinn. Everything here is shown in monochrome, as if you’re playing on an early PC. It’s a neat nod to the early days of adventure games, but the game controls so easily — everything here is in first person, and the controls are simple — that it still feels very modern.

Coming after Papers, Please, I didn’t think that Lucas Pope could top himself…and yet, here we are with Return of the Obra Dinn, and he’s done just that. This is a fascinating game that draws you in quickly and keeps you riveted, and it’s well worth investigating if you’re a fan of adventure games.

3909 provided us with a Return of the Obra Dinn Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: A