Return of the Obra Dinn (PS4, played on PS5) was recommended to me on Twitter as a neat little mystery game that might be up my alley. I am fond of indie games that have unique looks to them, and I certainly haven’t played anything that looks like this in quite a while. For about the first half-hour or so, I hated it. The game is very obscure at first about exactly what is going on at any given moment and what you’re supposed to be doing, and the initial learning curve is steep. I beat it today after just over nine hours. The reason I didn’t post yesterday is because I sat down after dinner intending to just play a little bit and the next thing I knew it was 10:30 and my wife was asking me if I had any plans to come to bed.
The premise: It is 1807. You are … well, you’re an insurance agent, as ridiculous as that might sound, and the Obra Dinn, which had gone missing, has shown up at port in England, with all hands dead or missing. Your job is to find out what happened to them, using a weird little magic pocket watch to jump into specific moments in the past. There are 60 people to identify, between the crew and a small handful of passengers, and you must identify everyone on board and determine how they died. You have access, eventually, to all of the moments where anyone died, and you have to piece together clues using their jobs, ethnicities, associations on the ship, and dress to figure out who everyone is, and sometimes you need to trace someone back through moments of other people’s lives to figure out what happened to them.
It’s fucking fascinating. I’m going to play through it again to record a guide over the next few days. The game is four years old, so no one really needs a guide right now, there are plenty out there, but I’m going to enjoy explaining how clever I am.
Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World was also a Twitter recommend, and I started reading it the same night I started playing Obra Dinn, and so the night before I was up too late playing a video game, I was up reading the first half of a book and didn’t get to bed properly until past midnight. This is the cover to my edition but the quotes are different; mine describes the book as a cross between True Crime and Inception, and that’s about as accurate a description for the book as I could possibly imagine. It starts off as a rather gruesome police procedural/murder mystery and then before you know it Sweterlitsch has worked in time travel and the literal end of the world and “thin places” between universes and holy shit it’s a mindfuck.
This book is currently on my shortlist for the best books of 2022; I’m not a hundred percent certain it’s going to stay there, as it’ll depend on how well the book sticks with me. The first 2/3 or so are amazing and, again, I was up too late reading and blew through half of it the first time I picked it up, but one of two things happens toward the end and I’m genuinely not sure which: either Sweterlitsch sort of loses control of his narrative a bit, which has gotten quite complicated by the end, or my tendency to not be the universe’s most careful reader got the better of me and hurt the rush to the end a little bit. Or, entirely possible, both happened, but one way or another the worst thing I can say about this book is that 2/3 of it is phenomenal and it doesn’t quite stick the ending, which I figure is still worth a recommendation.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of days. I no longer celebrate the Fourth of July, so we haven’t done anything America-related today, although my birthday is tomorrow so we had my birthday dinner tonight. I am full of pork chops and mashed potatoes and sheet cake. ‘Twas a good day.