"Truber-what?", you may ask. Well, imagine Twin Peaks meeting The X-Files, but in rural cold-war Germany. We take a look at the stylish new game, released earlier this week, and the unique way it was created.
The aesthetic of the game is simply stunning, I just want to look at it for hours. The quirky, picturesque wholesome feel is just so refreshing. And I'm clearly not the only one aching for something different, as the crowdfunded game reached its goal on kick-starter in just 30 hours, amassing over $200,000 in total.
Trüberbrook is a thrilling mystery-sci-fi adventure game. Enjoy an adventurous vacation to a 1960's parallel universe! Our story takes place in the year 1967, whilst the world policy is marked by the Cold War, Vietnam and the Six Day War, Russia and America are racing to the moon. At the same time the shooting of Benno Ohnesorg is the beginning of the West German student movement. In the big world, there is a lot of turmoil, but most of the people are unaware of things happening in small, dreamy, German provincial cities.
Hans Tannhauser, an American student in his late twenties is surprised: he wins a trip to a small, German village: Trüberbrook. Truber-what? No Idea! And that he took part in a profit-play, he can´t really remember … But since he is quite well suited to get some distance from his dissertation in quantum physics, he makes his way to Trüberbrook, Germany, full filled of curiosity.
Tannhauser receives his lodging in the Pension Waldeslust, a charming hostel on the village square. But shortly after his arrival mysterious things happen: some documents disappear from his room, someone seems to have broken in. Somebody is also trying to get in touch with him – But who?
Gradually, he gets to know the villagers and spa guests, but one is stranger than the other. Only the young scientist Gretchen, who also spent a research trip to Trüberbrook, seems normal to him. But before he knows it, Gretchen takes him on a great adventure. And before he can make a clear thought, it becomes obvious that it is perhaps not accidental that he is in Trüberbrook – he is there to save the world!
Trüberbrook seemingly takes inspiration from the Heimatfilm format, which was conceived after the devastation of Germany in in World War II and remained popular from the late 40's-60's. Their main tropes were their rural settings, sentimental tone and simplistic morality. Thematically centred on love, friendship, family and non-urban life, they also involved the difference between old and young, tradition and progress, and rural and urban life. Similarly, Trüberbrook mixes German folklore with a gripping sci-fi story-line, covering universal themes like love, friendship, loyalty, rootlessness and self-discovery. But, part of the whimsical charm is its reluctance to take itself too seriously- these heavy themes are washed down with a glass of monster hunting and dinosaurs.
Made with Real Hands, and Glue!
If you're a fan of practical effects over post-production editing, this might be a rare treat for you in the realm of video games. Arguably, Trüberbrook's most distinctive feature is it's unique visual style. The Jim-Henson-movie-loving little girl inside me is gushing over the cute scenery- all custom made purely by-hand.
The models were digitised using a technique called photogrammetry and later simplified for real-time rendering. Every scene got an individual treatment and was staged with actual physical lighting. This allowed the
developers to simulate different hours of the day or weather conditions. Even a change of seasons were possible just by redecorating those sets, for example with real tiny little snowflakes — no joke! Every variation of the miniature models was photographed and got re-projected onto the digital model. Using various compositing workflows, the characters were integrated into the scenery with digital lighting and real-time shadows.
This way, highly detailed low poly models developed that blend perfectly with the digital characters. Each level was finalised by adding effects like light reflections, particle effects and depth of field.
The style and story of this game alone are reason enough to think that it's one of the most original games to come out this year, but to top it all off, there's also an atmospheric soundtrack and full-voice acting- which both sound promising if the trailer is anything to go by.
Trüberbrook was released last week, on PC, Mac and Linux. I have not seen much coverage of it, but have come across a couple of play-through's whilst doing some research. It's so tempting to give them a watch, but I think this is a game I actually want to experience for myself, and the fact it is a seemingly (hopefully) simple point-and-click style game- skill-level isn't a barrier. In the meantime, give the trailer a watch here: