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Lorelei and the Laser Eyes review
Annapurna

Gaming

‘Lorelei and the Laser Eyes’ is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is filled with puzzles that make the player feel like an invincible genius.

An impossibly long time ago – which is to say eleven years, or several smartphones ago – I found myself overwhelmed by a game called Device 6.

Wordy, mysterious, aesthetically clean, and filled with quirky audio tricks and convoluted puzzles, it was a game that appealed very distinctly to the literary hopeful indie rock kid I had cultivated myself to be. I was blown away.

A sort-of touch-screen text adventure, the gameplay was utterly unique and unlike anything I had experienced. The player is presented with a third-person narrative, prompted to swipe to continue reading, and is then confronted by the twisting of text as the narrative’s subject peeks into different rooms and spaces of the mysterious place she has found herself. Incidental music and voice recordings play in certain rooms, paintings are framed and quickly moved past, and oblique push-button mechanisms are presented. Puzzles present themselves: a math equation with hidden numbers, and a text screen of barely coded left/right sequences.

All of this in only the first ‘chapter’ of the game.

No matter how much I raved about the game, few of my peers seemed eager to play; I suppose that exclusivity appealed to me, too.

'Lorelei and the Laser Eyes' is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying

All these years later, Device 6 lingers in my memory; moments of my partner and I hunched over my iPhone 4 or 5 in a pre-rush bar, swiping down, right, diagonally. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite video games of all time, and it’s buried in the app store.

Which is to say that when I found out that developer Simogo – who also developed the gorgeous, hyper-kinetic rhythm action game Sayonara Wild Hearts – had a new game coming out, I didn’t even bother watching a trailer before jumping fully on board the anticipation train.

The anticipation was warranted: I could not have been more floored by Lorelei and the Laser Eyes.

'Lorelei and the Laser Eyes' is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying

Though the game upscales the experience, Lorelei more closely resembles Device 6 than any other of Simogo’s limited catalog, taking the convoluted puzzles and mystery house aesthetic and applying them to a much more ‘video gamey’ game.

Where Device 6 was, by its nature, a semi-linear experience (one had to read the story before interacting with its moving parts), Lorelei sets the player adrift in a retro, survival-horror-esque world, trapped in an impossible old hotel in the middle of some indistinct woods. They are rudderless, with only the barest suggestion as to how to proceed. Reality is thin here, both the in-game narrative and the very architecture of the environments, which only barely cohere themselves. Spaces are rendered independently, their connecting points telegraphed by rudimentary geometry. Characters are barely animated, and yet somehow erratic, loosely constrained by the very idea of ‘character.’ The protagonist is French New Wave chic; timeless in a world without time.

'Lorelei and the Laser Eyes' is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying

Immediately, the game is obtuse: you are next to a car. Interact with that car – get in, spin the radio dials, open the glove compartment. Inside is a metatext, a ‘game manual’ for the game in which your character resides. There is important information here, but you cannot possibly ascertain which parts. Leaving the car, there are two locked gates and a locked wagon. The imposing hotel looms out of reach.

Figure it out, the game seems to say, and hands you no concrete tools to do so.

Each puzzle and every challenge of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes presents itself as impossible, an endless series of seeming brick walls between the player and the gameplay itself. Every room is locked, answers tauntingly on the other side of an implausible door, and the player has no clue how to manipulate the locking mechanism.

'Lorelei and the Laser Eyes' is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying

What Lorelei doesn’t tell you – what it eagerly hopes you will discover – is that everything deserves repeated examination. It delights in presenting you the keys to all the locks – in the forms of a diary page or a VHS box, written into the description texts of paintings on the walls – without giving you the context to use them. An underlined passage in a book about the taxonomy of numbers in the first-floor library might somehow provide the combination for a lock, on the third floor, that you haven’t yet encountered.

As you wander the halls, an unnerving sense of horror creeps in. There is a madman in the hotel, urging you forward, but there are no monsters, per se. This isn’t a game about survival, a game that employs a shotgun, or a game that quite puts the player in danger. Instead, it seems to be a game about seeing one’s way through dread, about turning one’s complication every which way until the way past becomes clear.

There is a series of puzzles in Lorelei that require the player to physically view things from different perspectives: a series of cameras must be manipulated around standing objects or panned along a gallery of paintings until a series of numbers presents itself where none were on initial glance. The game makes its expectations of the player literal.

If all of this consideration seems needlessly vague, that is because there are so many conceptual twists and puzzling victories that must be protected from spoilers. In fact, the game is so deeply resistant to its own solution that it employs a randomization mechanic, making it impossible for anyone online to write a direct walkthrough, or even for the tight-knit community that has sprung up around it to pass along direct solutions for any given puzzle. The game discourages screenshots, obscuring any solution-sensitive imagery and confounding any player from shortcutting their satisfaction.

'Lorelei and the Laser Eyes' is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is an obtuse game, one that occasionally feels claustrophobic by its constant barrage of indecipherable puzzles. But satisfaction – when one finally happens upon it – is so startling and overwhelming that the game becomes an endless chain of hard-won dopamine spikes. Unlocking a mystery feels akin to taking down an insanely difficult soulslike boss: the player feels, momentarily, like an invincible genius.

For over a decade, I had been wishing for a new Device 6, something stylish, moving, and completely novel. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes never gains the narrative grip of its predecessor, but it amplifies every other aspect. Like the character, players will find themselves locked within its halls, driven by a frustrated and fascinated compulsion.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes review
‘Lorelei and the Laser Eyes’ is stylishly obtuse and impossibly satisfying
Lorelei and the Laser Eyes
Obtuse, cold, and impossibly cool, Lorelei and the Laser eyes manages to drive the player forward no matter how impossible the puzzles.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Incredibly stylish and moody.
Narratively and conceptually compelling.
Clever in its impossibility.
A consistent series of roadblocks might dishearten less enthusiastic players.
9
Great

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