Lorelei And The Laser Eyes does not let its surreal creativity strip the puzzles of logic

“In one of Nero’s many manifestos,” reads a book in surrealist puzzle box Lorelei And The Laser Eyes, referring to his eccentric (read: tastefully deranged) antag artist, “there is a satirical proposal claiming that only dictators should are allowed to direct films.” Developers Simogo – with well-deserved praise from Sayonara Wild Hearts and Device 6 – seem to agree that this is a position worth satirizing. Lorelei, despite the puzzles with one solution, is not dictatorial. They are far too interested in working with you for that. It wants you to observe, contemplate and interpret its many mysteries. What really interests me here is how those puzzles are kept coherent and logical, despite you getting a letter delivered by dog ​​and occasionally visiting a bizzaro world of floppy disks where you talk to a magician who manifests from his own discarded hat.

The year is 1963. Renzo Nero, the aforementioned artist and director, has summoned you to his Italian hotel through his ‘magnum opus’ to witness a transcendental cosmic event. If you’ve ever gotten drunk with visual arts students, you’ll know that it usually just means “my latest ketamine doodle,” but there’s an immediate whiff of the otherworldly about the place. Sometimes that splash is a literal beam of magenta that breaks through an otherwise monochrome palette, but it is also in the stilted surreality of the few conversations you have with the hotel residents. Initially it is most clearly felt in a place where you would expect it to be simple: a manual, found in a glove compartment.

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Here’s a quick list of little details from the first hour of Lorelei that made me think, “Ah, I see what you’re doing here… actually, I don’t, but I like it!”: Your character can only sprint if they first drinking coffee. The manual warns you how important it is to pay attention to characters with owl masks, and also to take weapons pointed at your face seriously. You can choose whether or not you want to wash your hands after using the toilet. The fixed camera angle and meandering tribute to Resident Evil are ramped up almost immediately by making the first dog you meet be a sweetheart. You’ll find US dollars hidden in the strangest places, and the only use I’ve found at the moment is buying cute Gashapon from a machine in a dilapidated basement. Once you’re done rummaging around in your car, you can either ‘lock it’ or ‘leave it unlocked’. That, friends, is how you make me deeply paranoid in three words or less. A truly ominous use of an everyday selectable.

The manual’s most helpful advice, as Katharine noted in her preview, is that you’ll want to have a notebook handy. This is where that beautiful separation comes into play – that separation between “things you can look up on Wikipedia” and “things you would expect to find on a note made of skin dipped in a bottle of absinthe.” The puzzles all make sense: cross-referencing previously found clues – like movie release dates written on a stack of old video tapes with padlock codes – or using real-world knowledge like Roman numerals. Some puzzles are literally just math, which you get a non-Gameboy gifted with a built-in calculator. They’re certainly not easy, but so far I’ve appreciated how the game makes it clear what tools you need to solve something. It doesn’t lead you through the door, it shows you the way.

A woman overhears a conversation about Mr. Bob Hamburger in Lorelei And The Laser Eyes

Image credit: Simogo/Rock Paper shotgun

But like I said, despite that separation, the puzzles are still all rooted in this overarching mystery. What’s here for me, as someone who enjoys clever puzzles in a survival horror game but doesn’t care about them, is that Lorelei’s rewards run deeper than just the satisfaction of overcoming a head-scratcher. This is a place I want to explore and a story I desperately want to discover. Encounters with Nero build a mystique around a character who becomes more disturbing with each encounter, with every bit of information I gather about his work making his empty talk seem more menacing. And while Lorelei shares more DNA with the mobile puzzle game Device 6, Sayonara Wild Hearts’ passion for music creeps its way through scattered gramophones.

I’ve talked about survival horror a few times before, but please don’t be put off if that’s not your thing! There is absolutely no combat or inventory management. And unless there’s a major change in tone later on, I don’t see any need to avoid dogs either. However, there are parallels. The fixed camera, for example, but especially the feeling of creating a mental map of a vast single location. You can find maps, although even the process of accessing them is layered and thoughtful and a little diabolical, if only because I was overthinking the solution. That’s another thing: there’s no lunar logic here. Once again, Lorelei saves the surreal for its setting, while the challenges are grounded and sensual, providing a beautiful feeling of having traced you from A to B once they’re solved.

The openness of the hotel is also beautiful. I feel like there’s probably a perfect order to these puzzles, but it doesn’t feel forced. It leaves me to take superficial parts that look manageable, like a bastard-hot lasagna, and nibble it down to what I’m sure will be a molten center of an overarching puzzle that I’ll have to sit down, think about and let cool . But so far the sense of progress is steady, the mystery tantalizing, and the atmosphere unbroken by frequent nudges to leave the fiction and enter the real world to check which of my desk pencils have been sharpened. And if you can keep me submerged while I’m sharpening pencils, you’re on to a real winner. And if you can do that while keeping things logical enough, as a player you have my confidence that the solution is never out of reach, no matter how strange things may ultimately become.

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