For Gamers, Who Would Have Thought Being An Insurance Investigator Could Be So Much Fun


Matthew Kenney, Staff Writer

I’ve played, quite literally, hundreds of games throughout my life. I would like to think that I’ve gained a critical and discerning eye for the craft. So, to start, I’d like to recommend a game that I’ve recommended to every passing man, woman, child, and animal who’ll give me the time of day.
“Return of the Obra Dinn” is about the story of the titular ship, the Obra Dinn, and why it suddenly showed up off the coast of New England several months late and why its inhabitants are either smeared across the walls, or gone entirely.
You play as an insurance investigator, which normally would seem very boring, but you’ve been given a magical stopwatch that can be used on corpses to give a snapshot of the area around the exact second of death, and some audio beforehand, which is usually either talking or impalement, or for the discerning customer, both.
Of course, not every death is simple, and not every individual is going to say, “I am the colonel and I’ve been murdered in the library with a candelabra.” Your job is to deduce with clues gained from other moments of death, and the occasional guess and check.
This provides an incredibly engrossing experience that allows for an organically told story, and you admittedly feel quite intelligent deciphering even obvious clues to figure out that the captain’s wife was crushed by an antediluvian kraken with the mast of the ship. Of course, sometimes it is guess and check. Some characters look similar enough where that’s all you can really do, but otherwise, it’s a fulfilling experience.
What I don’t enjoy so much about the experience is the soundtrack, and the actual investigation phases. The soundtrack is relatively out of the way until the investigation phase, where it then just turns into the horn section blarping into your ear repeatedly. This wouldn’t be that bad, except the investigation phase happens once every time you find a corpse. On top of that, it takes about half of a minute before you can exit the investigation phase and start putting together everything in your journal.
The problems are merely small cracks in a beautiful piece of renaissance art that are lovingly crafted and also something I enjoyed wholeheartedly. If you choose to play it, take my advice– do so in chunks, maybe an hour a night. Due to the nature of the game, it has virtually zero replay value, and when I blew through it in one night, I was left sad that the experience was over. I could never get that first playthrough love again.