Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

released on May 16, 2024

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

released on May 16, 2024

A woman, summoned by an eccentric man to participate in a project in an old hotel somewhere in central Europe, becomes embroiled in a game of illusions, increasingly dangerous and surreal. Now you are invited to fall into the same rabbit hole, in a non-linear mystery with an immense amount of handcrafted puzzles, constantly presenting you with new riddles to solve, each leading you closer to deciphering the enigma of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes.

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dont really feel like doing 4th grade math

Me ha gustado mucho llenar dos folios con garabatos incomprensibles

I'm speechless. This is insanity. A magic show. A masterpiece of game design and art. So utterly special. I don't know what else to say. I can't possibly do it justice through text.

I think I'll never play a game that makes me feel like this again.

Can it still be said that detective games are "seeing a resurgence" when the last several years have seen so many great games in the genre? Heck, Return of the Obra Dinn is already nearing its six-year anniversary. Maybe it's becoming a cliché to underestimate what has become, once again, a beloved genre. And you would think, with all of those releases, that the genre would become established at one point and stop presenting any surprises. Then a game like Lorelei and the Laser Eyes comes around and upends that expectation.

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is... for one, a game that doesn't really wish to bog itself down with explanations. It's a mystery that maximally respects the player's intelligence, laying out breadcrumbs and letting the player reach conclusions on their own, something that begins with its very introduction: selecting New Game immediately gives the player control of the protagonist besides their car, presumably having just arrived at their destination. Where is this? When is this? Who are they? Why are they here?

I don't know, buddy. Fuck around and find out.

It won't take long for the player to reach Hotel Letztes Jahr on foot. The most succinct way to explain the hotel is this: think of the architect that designed the Resident Evil mansions. Imagine they were hired to design a hotel, and were paid up-front in pure cocaine. Hotel Letztes Jahr is a veritable labyrinth, filled with locked doors, secret passages and obscure texts, and the amount of puzzles per square meter crammed into it would make even Hershel Layton blush. This is where the meat of your time will be spent with Lorelei: figuring out how to navigate the hotel and unraveling whatever dark secrets it hides.

And hide it does: from corporate dealings to conspiracies to an outright murder, there's a web of events that soon spirals into surrealism, as life and death, fiction and reality are overlaid, and twisting, impossible spaces exist in the most unexpected of places. Although not explicitly a horror game, here's a spicy dash of horror to Lorelei and the Laser Eyes's ambience, this unrelenting atmosphere of dread and mystery enhanced by the stellar sound design and striking bichromatic palette. In my review of 1000xResist, I mentioned how refreshing it is to see an indie game that deals so well with the limitations of its team and budget in creating great visuals: that can also be said about Lorelei, even though both experiences are drastically different.

And what horror game is complete without lots of in-game files to read? And make sure to do so diligently, as this time around, they're not here just for flavour, there is going to be a quiz on this. As a detective game, Lorelei is meant to be played with pen and paper on hand: the game invites its player, explicitly and implicitly, to draw conclusions about the hotel and the elaborate narrative surrounding it, and very often, the use for a certain piece of data will be unknown at the moment it's obtained -- in fact, one of the earliest puzzles rewards something whose meaning and use is only made clear in the final moments of the game. This means the opposite is also true: some puzzles appear early and stare the player in the face, unsolvable until much, much later on.

Yet, despite all that complexity, one of Lorelei's most outstanding accomplishments is the balance of its difficulty: even with all the surrealism going on, the puzzles largely avoid Moon Logic, remaining grounded by the information, characters and motifs the game is built around. It's common to hear players come out of it noting that they never had to rely on guides to find their way, a statement that echoes my own experience. At the same time, no solution feels particularly unearned: even for the more straightforward puzzles, where it seems like the solution is being given verbatim, there is always another step, and some degree of logical reasoning to fully complete it.

The designers also achieved something rather elegant that will probably go unnoticed by most players -- at least, those who only do a single playthrough. A large part of Lorelei's puzzles have random solutions. The rationale for deriving the solution is always the same, but the puzzle itself has moving pieces that are guaranteed to change between playthroughs, thus changing what the correct answer is. I was pleasantly surprised, when gunning for the game's final achievement, that my notes from a previous playthrough were almost entirely rendered null and void -- I hope this means I can replay the game, more or less fresh, in a few years.

As far as 2024 is concerned, however, were it not for the fact the latter half of the year is absolutely stacked with promising games, I'd preemptively declare Lorelei and the Laser Eyes my game of the year –- it's just that good. A must play for fans of puzzles and mysteries. As an addendum, the fact that Simogo jumped from Sayonara: Wild Hearts straight into this is… my god. What incredible range.