One of the best things about reviewing video games is playing games that perhaps I would likely have never played, nor even heard of. Sometimes you discover a right gem, that takes a simple idea and implements it perfectly to create a fun or thought provoking experience that sticks with you long after you finish it. Other times, you get to take in some of the worst that the industry has to offer. ‘n Verlore Verstand, by South African based developer Skobbejak Games, is very much one of these games. Up until recently I’d never heard of it, but initial impressions had me intrigued. The question is, what sort of game will it be?
The game, whose name translates to ‘A Lost Mind’ for those that are interested, is a platform based puzzle game that plays out over a series of 18 levels or ‘scenes’ as they are called in game. The game opens with you standing in the middle of a plain, with nothing more than a solitary tree adorning the background. A simple push of the joystick edges you forward, and after a short walk you reach the foot of the tree. At this point, the screen contorts and twists and clears to you standing in the corridors of an old wooden dilapidated house. Here you need to navigate a maze of corridors until you once again find the tree, albeit a painting of it this time’ which will teleport you to the next scene. And that pretty much sums up the game, which takes you through a sequence of pure puzzle, platforming and what I can only describe as ‘interval’ sections with the goal to reach the tree. Platforming sections generally require you to navigate a path of floating or moving platforms, sometimes stopping to hit the occasional switch to open up a path or rotate a platform. Puzzle sections task you with solving a maze, or some simple puzzles involving in game items and ‘intervals’ task you with running a short gauntlet whilst dodging obstacles.
Style wise, the game is very hit and miss. Running through the beautifully washed red grass towards a tree bathed in the glimmer of a setting sun look fantastic, but moments like that are contrasted by dull scenes forged from the most minimal of geometry and slathered in a handful of textures. Things aren’t helped by a heavy reuse of assets, the majority of which have a somewhat ‘stock’ feeling about them, and as such bar a few stand out moments the majority of scenes fail to generate any real atmosphere.
First impressions implied a sense of a deeper overall meaning to the game, however in the end everything is revealed to be ultimately meaningless. Skobbejak Games pitch the game as abstract adventure game that inspires you to form your own narrative, but it lacks enough meaningful symbolism or imagery for the player to direct the process. The gameplay is also underwhelming, the controls for platforming feel lacking of any real physics. Midway through a jump depressing the trigger to run suddenly increases your speed, which contrasts with a jump from standing which feels much more normal. It’s all rather in-consistent, and as such can lead to frustration at times when you feel that the movement controls have let you down as a platform breaks apart forcing you to again repeat a difficult section. Coupled with some rather irritating bugs, some of which will require you to restart a scene, it paints an overall picture of a game that’s not quite finished.
To conclude, when compared to other puzzle-platforming games available in the market ‘n Verlore Verstand falls short and is nothing more than an unremarkable experience that is difficult to recommend to all but perhaps the most die-hard fans of the genre who have exhausted everything else.
‘n Verlore Verstand was provided to us by Microsoft via a download code for Xbox One.