Albert and Otto, developed by Kbros Games and published by Digerati, is a 2D puzzle platformer set in 1939’s pre-war Germany. The game adopts a monochromatic art style we’ve seen in similar platformers such as Limbo and Inside, keeping the landscape and majority of the characters limited to grayscale, and yet manages to combine it with a Tim Burton-esque stylism that merges adorable with creepy. One character does stand out from all the shades of gray with their bright red coloring, however, and that is the game’s titular Otto. Otto is a child’s plush bunny who seemingly happens to have some magic imparted upon him. The game’s other main character, Albert, is a small child who must use his wits along with Otto’s abilities to overcome complex puzzles and thwart off danger the pair encounters in their effort to find his missing sister, Anna.
Anna’s relationship with Albert and Otto is told artistically, with the world being dotted by the occasional mailbox or photo shard. Albert can check the mailboxes for letters and photos from Anna, with each one providing a little more detail as to what is going on. Meanwhile, collecting shards pieces together a photo that is visible while paused. Unfortunately, players will discover that Albert and Otto: The Adventure Begins will not give them the full story in its current state. The game is set to be released episodically over four installments, with The Adventure Begins serving as the first episode. Given that there are more questions than answers at this point, we can’t help but hope that future episodes are not too far behind.
Albert and Otto uses the unique nature of it’s main characters to its advantage to offer up some truly interesting puzzle solving mechanics. Albert is a fairly standard child character, and as such he comes with the basic abilities to run and jump. He is armed, however, with a little single shot BB gun that can be used to get rid of pesky crows. Otto has the true power, as the little plush bunny can be picked up by Albert thus allowing him to double jump and even granting him the ability to levitate items in the world. Albert can also drop Otto, using the bunny to hold down pressure plates or to activate electric switches even when out of view. Albert and Otto’s puzzle mechanics shine, as they are clear and intuitive enough that anybody can figure them out with a little trial and error, but not so easy that players will feel as if the solution is slapping them in the face. Even when the solution seems self evident, it can require a bit of skill to actually execute.
A majority of the early stages of Albert and Otto can be sleuthed over at the player’s own pace, where its perfectly acceptable to take your time and test out the limitations of the game’s puzzle solving mechanics. But this comes to an end when players progress deeper into the story and begin to encounter bosses. This is also where things start to get a bit sideways for the game. Albert and Otto’s boss battles rely very heavily on trial and error, much like the other puzzles the game presents, but there are times where the game effectively hiccups which can result in an unfortunate death. During my playthrough of the robot boss battle in the photograph above, I experienced a handful of glitches that made otherwise perfect runs turn to dust. In one instance the robot’s giant fist fell on the platform to the far right where it glitched, blowing out bursts of steam at random. Despite being on the platform in the center, which had previously proven to be safe, I was blown back by the steam and killed.
While the controls for Albert and Otto can be clunky during its more frantically paced boss sequences, the game is still quite forgiving. Completing a puzzle or a small sequence is usually sufficient for activating the checkpoint system, and death will restart the player at the beginning of the puzzle or sequence they were currently working on. This can come at the price of some pride, however, as the game does have achievements for completing two boss battles and a river sequence without dying as well as one for completing the entire episode with less than five deaths. That said, players are free to replay chapters at their leisure to improve their skills or nab missed collectibles by using the chapter select from the main menu.
Albert and Otto: The Adventure Begins may not breaking any molds for the 2D platforming genre, but it is terrific example of what good pacing and artistic storytelling can do for a game. Some fine tuning for the controls certainly wouldn’t hurt, though.