It would seem that the indie quest for success does not need much. Write a catchy story, complete with logical riddles and a tolerable picture – and if not a hit comes out, then at least a solid representative of the genre. But The Great Perhaps from the domestic studio of Caligari Games and the eminent German publisher Daedalic Entertainment offers much more: there is interesting mechanics, tied to time movements, and nostalgic graphics in the spirit of Soviet cartoons, and native color with familiar quotes and memes. It is a pity that all this beauty is still not possible to evoke real emotions.

The game from the very first minutes sets up a gloomy, melancholy mood. Her main character, an anonymous astronaut, wakes up from a hundred-year cryogenic sleep in orbit and discovers that humanity has died due to some kind of anomaly. Thanks to the unexpectedly smart assistant program, he agrees not to commit suicide so far and instead goes to Earth to figure out what happened.

The hometown of our cosmonaut, where he soon lands, is a kind of collective image of the post-Soviet space: streets with typical high-rise buildings and dilapidated village houses, a subway with blue cars, richly decorated parks. From all this aesthetics of Soviet “abandoned” posters and half-erased paintings of a brighter future, there is a special charm – after all, it is not for nothing that people go after it even to Pripyat infected with radiation. In the game, some landscapes also look like the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

It soon turns out that the hero has a chance not only to figure out the present, but also to change it: he gets into the hands of a mysterious flashlight that allows you to briefly move into the past. Everything there is similar to the period of the late eighties and early nineties – with the same bright colors and crazy eclecticism.

Caligary Games say that when creating the graphics they were inspired by cartoons about the Pilot brothers and other animations of that period, and there really are similarities. But The Great Perhaps boasts much more detail than the old cartoons. The local levels are so elaborated that, for all the fantastic, the narratives seem real. As I walked through, I kept trying to recall if I had ever seen a similar mosaic or bas-relief in my life, everything looks so convincing.

But the plot is more difficult to penetrate than the atmosphere. The plot is intriguing, and it is difficult for a lonely astronaut not to empathize, especially since his remarks are talentedly voiced. That’s just all this wandering through time and space is not enough depth. The Great Perhaps’s description contains “catchy characters, each with their own story,” but they aren’t in the game. There are several people with whom you can exchange a couple of phrases, but this does not pull the whole story. The hero is not really revealed, attachment to him during the passage also does not work. The setting seems to be ideal for heart-rending stories and emotional scenes, but the authors of the game did not work out with drama. Even the philosophical conversations of the protagonist with the assistant program sound somehow simulated.

A desperate writer wants to empathize, but it does not work. We know too little about him, and his replicas too cliched

But the comedic moments at Caligary Games turned out to be clever and really funny. Here, teens in a movie theater discuss comics, a patient in a psychiatric hospital says that he saw things worse than astronauts coming out of the air, and a clown asking for balloons asks to bring him helium … and alcohol. And with all sorts of quotes and references, the game is clogged just to the eyeballs, even though you have competitions with your friends who will notice more and faster. Here, and music, and movies, and memes, domestic and foreign, fresh and half a century ago.

There are a lot of references in the game. From the obvious to the highbrow, in Russian, English, Japanese, elven …

Successful jokes distract from the boring plot, but do not save from the main disappointment – the finale. The trouble is not that he is open and the player is invited to connect hints among themselves and figure out what happened and why. And the fact that he comes completely unexpectedly and inappropriately. The hero goes to the next puzzle, and instead of a clue and a new portion of the plot, he gets a short video and credits. No climax and revelations in the end – the game just breaks off at a glance.

Against this background, the gameplay of The Great Perhaps is pleasantly surprising. The magic flashlight in the hands of the hero is not only a means of transportation; with it, you can peep at other times and thereby avoid dangers. There are enough of them everywhere: on the ruins of civilization, the hero is not averse to bite a giant octopus, mutant rats and other monsters, and in the peaceful past he can be captured by vigilant doctors and watchmen. In order not to meet with anyone, you need to monitor the environment and move in time to the right reality. It turns out to be a simple arcade stealth that does not require special skill and at the same time keeps in suspense. There are puzzles (albeit just one kind), and a scene with a chase, and an underground city where you need to dodge the falling debris. In a word, this is not just a walking simulator – don’t get bored.

Without elements of the quest, too, could not have done. They are very simple here: the hero does not have the ability to craft and equipment, so there is no need to fix the primus or make cunning plans for exchanging one thing for another. You wander about yourself, pick up all sorts of keys and batteries, transfer them between times and use them in the right place. Everything is compact and logical, almost without annoying backtracking and other awkward ways to slow down the game. Although, perhaps, pleasure should be stretched. Even for the modest independent crafts, The Great Perhaps came out rather short: I completed the game in four hours, looking at beautiful backgrounds for a long time, looking for links and discussing funny moments with friends. If not distracted, it will be enough for three hours from strength. Quality, of course, is more important than quantity, but a larger timing could have revealed the plot.

The scene with the escape from the shadow passes like a real horror: the hero in a hurry clears his way while the monster breathes in his back

The Great Perhaps provokes conflicting feelings. The game looks great, is full of excellent references and is played in one go. But its plot and heroes do not cause emotions, and the tattered ending makes you scratch your head in a puzzled manner. Maybe the development team should try yourself in more fun genres? With a sense of humor and erudition, they clearly have complete order. In addition, pathos of psychological adventures are now in bulk, but competent and intelligent satire is not enough.

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