You Should Check Out "Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist"
In 2013, the remake of the critically acclaimed Half-Life mod, The Stanley Parable, hit Steam, and it left us scratching our collective head. It was confusing. It was eye-opening. It defied easy classification, and was difficult enough to describe, let alone critique. Some critics forewent actual reviews in favor of more impressionistic opinion pieces on it. Over a year after I played it, and I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. One thing is for sure, though: the guys behind the brunt of it, Davey Wreden and William Pugh, are clever, twisted individuals.
And now, Pugh has surprised us all with a new, small game out of nowhere, at the end of 2015, with little to no explanation as to what it even is, what he's trying to say, or how to actually properly go through it.
Thank God for that.
Much like The Stanley Parable, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terrible Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is an experience that sort of defies normal explanation. Is it an adventure? A puzzle? A "walking simulator," as some would call it? There's really no definitive answer to those questions. It's all of those, and yet not at the same time.
Despite being a relatively short game with a seemingly linear progression. there's a lot going on in Dr. Langeskov. All at once, it comes across as an absurdist take on the making of video games, a critique on the process of game creation, a commentary on the gaming industry's constant attempts to go even more over the top with each big-name game, and a smattering of other things. At the same time, it might be none of those things. Or all of them.
Confused yet? I know I am.
The basic set-up has players working "behind the scenes" of an over-the-top, Just Cause 3-style video game. By "behind the scenes," I mean triggering explosions, letting tigers out of cages, operating elevators to give the unseen player the illusion that they're the one doing it, so on, so forth. This is taking place in the midst of what seems to be a strike thanks to the apparently not-so-great conditions these "behind-the-scenes" types are forced to work under.
That's really all I could piece together from my brief time with Dr. Langeskov. And trust me, it is brief. About 20 minutes, give or take a few, actually. That isn't to say that there isn't a decent bit there, though. There are papers to read, objects to interact with, alternate dialogue to trigger, etc. Not as much as The Stanley Parable, but hey, that game costs 15 bucks, while this is free, so it's not entirely fair to compare the two.
What else is there really to say? It's a first-person game? It has a nice aesthetic? The voice-acting (all done by one guy) is pretty great? I'm not sure. While I'm usually all for writing lengthy diatribes about video games, I can't really find the words to put to Dr. Langeskov. Which isn't, mind you, a knock against it. In fact, thanks to it being freeware, I'd actively encourage anyone and everyone to at least give it a shot. It's a weird little thing, for sure.
I mean, when a game manages to make the act of trying to answer a telephone funny and novel, it's definitely worth at least giving a shot, right?