Albert and Otto – The Adventure Begins is the first episode of the multi-part series, Albert and Otto. At its core, Albert and Otto – The Adventure Begins is an atmospheric, 2-D puzzle platformer that attempts to tell the story of a young boy named Albert who is on a quest to rescue his abducted sister. Along his journey, he encounters his sister’s stuffed rabbit, Otto, who has certain magical qualities that aid Albert in his mission. The indie title, created by solo developer Nikola Kostic (of KBros Games), was originally a part of a Kickstarter campaign that failed but then managed to find success as a result of the Steam Greenlight program. And let me just say, it’s a great thing that it did.
Albert and Otto is an undeniably dark game. Nikola Kostic has done a fantastic job of creating a somber tone to the game through his juxtaposition of innocence (in the form of the children and stuffed bunny) and some of the harsher realities of our world (such as guns, abduction, and death). Right off the bat, indie game enthusiasts will note that it bears an aesthetic resemblance to Limbo. Everything is black, white, or some shade of grey in between. The soundtrack is incredibly moody and intensifies the visuals in a way that really sets the scene of a bleak and dreary world for the gamer. Furthermore, the game takes place in pre - World War II Germany, which certainly has an impact on the story. Although Albert is just a young boy, he starts the game wielding a large, slow-firing pistol which the player uses to take out certain enemies like crows. While it is clear where many inspirations for the game stem from, Albert and Otto certainly nails what it is going for and really shines with its world building.
While traversing this disparaging world, Albert and Otto are met with a series of head-scratching puzzles and unforgiving platforming. The game certainly does a good job of starting the player out slowly: introducing new mechanics and unique ways of using them by starting the player out with basic puzzles and slowly ramping up the difficulty. However, this game does start to become very tough, very quickly. It is almost Dark Souls-esque in how exacting it can be sometimes which certainly makes this game not for the faint of heart. Checkpoints for some of the later segments are few and far between, requiring the player to complete large stretches of puzzling without dying or getting stuck and having to restart. This is somewhat problematic as it may turn off many players who will inevitably get frustrated after failing certain segments a few times.
As far as the actual platforming goes, it does not feel too floaty, which I personally enjoy. As more and more mechanics get introduced, the puzzles become more and more complicated, requiring you to think and experiment with some trial and error. There weren’t any puzzles that felt cheap or unfair, however, some of them required a level of precision that only repetition can achieve. I did notice certain mechanics would glitch or not work as intended and the game would always freeze for a brief second when walking into a new area (since there are no load screens per se). These issues, while somewhat problematic in such a challenging game, were few and far between and were not detrimental to the overall experience. I did enjoy the level of depth that Otto adds to the gameplay. As you progress through the game and beat bosses (which are fantastic encounters by the way!), you will gain new powers that Otto will allow you to use. However, for certain puzzles, you are required to leave Otto on the ground and manipulate some of his abilities from afar while you activate switches elsewhere. While this may seem like a contrived mechanic that has been done before, by attaching the powers to Otto as opposed to Albert, the player really does feel powerless when leaving the stuffed rabbit in a certain location. This allows for even more challenging puzzles since you cannot even double jump without Otto. Some of the powers such as the ability to lift and move objects such as boxes do feel a little wonky. It is somewhat difficult to place the box with precision since objects become very sensitive to movement from your mouse or controller when Albert is levitating them.
Ultimately, Albert and Otto – The Adventure Begins is a great start to what has the potential to be a great indie puzzle platformer series. The atmospheric art style and music are powerful and make this title a cinematic experience. However, this game is not without difficulty and only the most patient and level headed of gamers will be able to make it all the way through. If you are looking for a challenging yet rewarding experience that is packaged rather beautifully, then Albert and Otto – The Adventure Begins is worth the purchase.