Game Review - 'n Verlore Verstand (Xbox One)
Updated: Mar 7, 2022
This surreal indie title – translated from Afrikaans as ‘a lost understanding’ - offers some interesting varied visuals and atmosphere but all too often is bogged down with taxing, frustrating game-play.
Developed by South African team Skobbejak Games initially for Steam in 2016 before the Xbox One port released a year later, the game is a mixture of a walking simulator with first person platforming and some light puzzle-solving mixed within. The minimalist menus and creepy environments lend the levels – called ‘Scenes’ - an abstract twisted dream quality.
There is only one goal - to simply navigate through each level to reach the strange, ethereal white tree. That's it. There are at least 18 of these which must be completed with a time trial mode available for each one but after about six levels the assets are repeated but with generally harder challenges to mix up the game-play.
It starts easy enough with some light corridor mazes in a creaky mansion, then followed with some platforming in an eerie cloud-like setting but within a few levels the difficulty notably ratchets up with longer, punishing stages which require precision timing, copious amounts of pattern memorisation and an aggressive amount of 'trial and error' game-play. This becomes less enjoyable with each failed jumping attempt (and presumably, death) and more an exercise in masochistic dedication.
The music and visuals are effective, with the tender piano music offset against the otherworldly environments, adding to the game's off-beat nightmarish vibe. The minimalist feeling is evident from the lacking user interface and inability to save your in-level progress. These are hallmarks of a small development team but also in some way add to the game's oppressive ambience.
Unfortunately, the actual game-play is simply too frustrating to recommend as the later levels are repeats of already visited locations with more emphasis on precision with platform timing and only a moderate checkpoint system to keep the flow going.
Verdict - It's bizarre and original enough in terms of its aesthetic but underneath its off-kilter tone is a deeply infuriating first-person puzzle-platformer which will only appeal to those willing to put more time in than it is worth.