The story starts when a young American physics student called Hans Tannhauser wins a holiday in Trüberbrook, a small German provincial town in the 1960s. At first glance, the idyllic village with its mountains and glittering lake invites you to relax. But after the nightly visit of a thief, the calm atmosphere dissolves somewhat. After all, why would anyone steal a paper on quantum physics? That (and much more) is waiting to be discovered with the help of the inhabitants of Trüberbrook.
The best way to enjoy the story is to know as little as possible about it in advance. In spite of a rather short four to five hours of play time, Trüberbrook has a lot in store for inquisitive players. This by no means a regular village, something that was made clear to us when we read the game's initial description (it's a sci-fi mystery adventure, not that you'd tell at first glance). Twin Peaks mixed with Oxenfree: that's all we feel comfortable revealing about the story.
Right from the start of the game the art style impresses. The environments often look like the backdrop of a model railway thanks to a look that's a mixture of vivid colours and realism. There's tremendous attention to detail in these miniature sets, and the entire world of Trüberbrook was clearly painstakingly handcrafted. The various scenes were then digitised and reworked with the help of photogrammetry, which gave the game a strong visual identity and characterful style.
A total of 30 unique settings were created, and thanks to the detailed environments btf GmbH was able to create a wonderful sense of atmosphere. Even the bizarre inhabitants of this world will stick around in your head once you've finished the game. From Trude, the hardy owner of the inn where we're staying to the crazy conspiracy theorist Lessing - Trüberbrook rarely takes itself seriously and scores highly when it comes to its playful sense of humour.
In order to advance the exciting story and find out what's going on, we spent most of our time in Trüberbrook solving puzzles. The general structure meant that we always had something to do, but often the solutions were pretty much straight in front of us the whole time. We also had to engage in conversations with the locals in order to discover new clues. There are, however, rarely more than two steps separating us from any given solution. Adventure games like this one are known for their tricky but often funny ideas when it comes to puzzles and problem-solving. Trüberbrook's humorous elements and the cast of characters meant a lot of scope for fun and engaging content, so it's a pity that these assets were under-utilised.
On top of that, the game could have done with a little fine-tuning in certain areas. The names of items are not displayed in the inventory so it's sometimes difficult to see exactly what an item is once you've picked it up because of their stylised representation. Roughly halfway through the game, we could quick-travel to certain locations, but proper names were missing so we had to experiment to find out where we were going. At one point in the game we were given the wrong answer options, so we had to guess randomly, although we had been given the correct answer in advance, which also caused a lot of confusion.
With between four and five hours of play, Trüberbrook is a fairly short adventure game and can be played in one sitting. The story doesn't seem truncated despite its relatively short length and it entertains thanks to some intelligent twists along the way. Even though the game focuses more on the story side of things, the challenge was simple enough that we missed the payoff you get after solving a particularly tricky puzzle. The hand-crafted world is brought to life with a nice soundtrack and some great characters, however, although those personalities are too rarely brought to the fore in what's an otherwise engaging narrative-focused game.