Lorelei And The Laser Eyes review – the world’s weirdest puzzle game

Lorelei And The Laser Eyes review – the world’s weirdest puzzle game

Lorelei And The Laser Eyes – a genuine mystery (Annapurna Interactive)

The creators of Sayonara Wild Hearts and Year Walk return with what is possibly their strangest, and most entertaining, game so far.

Swedish indie developer Simogo are delightfully enigmatic. Their list of previous releases includes memorable iPhone horror game Year Walk, the arcade style joy of Sayonara Wild Hearts, and Device 6 – a text adventure whose imagery and prose merge to become puzzles in themselves. Their motto may as well be ‘expect the unexpected’.

Their latest, Lorelei And The Laser Eyes, is a dreamlike third person puzzle game in which you wander sinister environments in search of clues and solutions, and it’s predictably expectation-confounding. Presented in black and white, with splashes of red, and taking place in the unsettling and not-quite-deserted Hotel Letztes Jahr, your goal is simply to work out what’s happening.

To do that you’ll have to figure out who you are, a subject that’s just as mysterious, given that you start with minimal introduction in a forest next to a broken down car, with nothing in your inventory apart from a car key and two tampons.

Following a path through the trees you find yourself at the locked gates of the hotel, greeted by a friendly labrador with a note in its mouth. As with many of your subsequent tasks, you’ll need to extract the letter’s useful information and use it to open the gate. At this point you’ll also find a computer that lets you save your game, and a Byte Seyes – a Game Boy style handheld that will come in handy later.

Set in the early 1960s – long before PCs and Game Boys should even exist – it’s one of many oddities you’ll stumble across in the surreal confines of Hotel Letztes Jahr. Along with being mostly monochrome, many of its textures shift and move, giving the place an air of hallucinogenic weirdness, and that’s before you’ve met any of its equally offbeat denizens.

The first one you come across is a lightly blood-spattered cypher whose face you never see, but who entreats you to try and find the missing pages of a script he’s writing, which he’d like you to push under the door to his hotel room. And so starts a mystery that weaves together themes of art, symmetry, the occult, numbers, patterns, and time travel.

Strolling through the hotel’s peculiar rooms and corridors it’s soon apparent that the whole place is one giant, layered puzzle. Every door lock, security camera, and artwork adds a clue to be unpicked, or a pattern to be typed into a keypad. Plenty of information you come across won’t even be useful until much later in the story.

To keep track of all that, your elegant female protagonist can at any time introspect, which is how the game handles menu management. It lets you look back over past clues and documents stored using her photographic memory, as well as accessing your inventory and mental notes – which are in effect an active quest list.

You’ll have to earn the map floor by floor by finding and unlocking architects’ drawings, but even then you need to keep your wits about you, remembering where a particular clue or titbit of information might best be applied amongst all the many rooms, combination locks, puzzles, keypads, and strange people you’ve encountered.

Lorelei And The Laser Eyes – it’s not just mazes you’ll be lost in (Annapurna Interactive)

Early on, the game advises you to keep a pen and paper handy and we also found ourselves with dozens of screen grabs snapped on our phone, many of which wound up covered in scrawled annotations based on different possibilities to try out.

The depth of the mystery, combined with its absence of handholding, and hints that are at least as perplexing as the puzzles you’re already trying to solve, make any breakthrough feel like a wonderful release. Finally popping open a door after minutes spent wandering, wondering and referring to archly written and possibly irrelevant notes, feels nothing short of ecstatic.

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Even the game’s multiple shortcuts, which simplify its initially stupefying traversal, need to be unlocked individually before you can use them. The game gives absolutely nothing for free, with every single element of your progress eked out in return for figuring out a little portion of its overarching set of riddles.

If you like your mysteries arch, and your puzzles cryptic, Lorelei And The Laser Eyes will be a surreal paradise where anything and everything could either help or form a new layer of the riddle. For publisher Annapurna Interactive, this is another beautifully chosen title that joins their growing roster of virtuoso indie games.

Lorelei And The Laser Eyes

In Short: A gloriously surreal third person puzzle game, set in a hotel where everything from its rooms to its artwork is part of a multi-layered mystery of time travel, mazes, and the occult.

Pros: Hugely satisfying puzzles that almost all lead to new conundrums. The hints are at least as abstruse as its puzzles and there’s no handholding whatsoever

Cons: There are occasional frustrating moments when you feel as though you’ve tried everything and there’s nothing more you can do. Early navigation is deliberately confusing.

Score: 8/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) and PC
Price: £19.99
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Simogo
Release Date: 16th May 2024
Age Rating: 12

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