By: Matthew Striplen
Without a doubt, The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and his Square Mind is one of the most unique puzzle games I’ve ever played. Everything about the game, from its aesthetic to the gameplay to its story, showcases a wonderfully bizarre and quirky style.
Most of Delusions‘ controls are pretty straightforward. Platforming elements, however, make up an important part of the gameplay. Just about everything responds quickly to user input and feels under control, and, as a result, it doesn’t take long to understand how to handle Von Sottendorff.
Delusions heavily incorporates touch-screen usage as well, which doesn’t work as well as the rest. The swiping directions are often misread, as is placement of the stylus. That being said, while the touch-screen controls may be clunky, they only add a minor hindrance to the overall experience.
Quirky, quirky, and weird: that’s what Delusions is all about. The character and enemy designs look spectacularly strange from start to finish, especially Von Sottendorff himself. His cartoonishly proportioned body and odd mannerisms make even the simplest of actions entertaining to watch. The environmental designs show plenty of detail, though the entire game is a little on the grainy side, even for 3DS.
While Delusions boasts of its holophonic audio capabilities, there isn’t much to be heard in that regard. However, the sound system appears to be merely recorded in a binaural format, rather than holophonic. For uninitiated audiophiles, binaural recording is an audio system that uses two microphones to create the illusion of being in the same room where the sound takes place.
Despite all that, only the narration is recorded in the binaural format, and the effect is not used to great extent. Plus, the format doesn’t affect gameplay whatsoever; it’s just added as an extra point of interest. Additionally, all of the narrator’s speech is distorted due to microphone issues.
The soundtrack, however, is simply wonderful. It captures the true spirit of the game with its full orchestral score, which uses a high quality synthesizer that should fool most people.
We join Von Sottendorff as he awakens from a nap with no memories, and we must help him rediscover his past and family. As he sets out to collect photographs scattered around his house, he is “guided” by a voice in his head, which gives him not so subtle instructions in the form of what not to do.
Once Von Sottendorff ventures into a section of his mansion, it quickly becomes apparent that his rooms are scrambled, meaning that not all doors connect to adjacent rooms. However, each room can be rearranged like puzzle pieces to reach previously unavailable areas. This function acts as the crux for the entire game. Planning out how to swap out the room makes the game feel much more like a maze in which both the beginning and end are moveable.
Von Sottendorff’s most interesting ability is his trumpet, which can be used as both a weapon and puzzle-solving tool. The narrator explains that the trumpet makes Von Sottendorff use his imagination, which makes him see things that “aren’t really there.” By playing the trumpet in a room which has a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, he reveals previously invisible platforms in the air.
Photographs are scattered across each level, which can be later spent to unlock pictures, sounds and movies. The movies, however, are usually just cut scenes from the game itself. Each level also contains a large puzzle piece that is used to make a larger photo; when completed, it signals the end of an area and retrieval of a memory.
Most levels follow a similar format: collect the key and find the swirly door. The photographs and puzzle pieces, while technically optional, are very important for completing the game. Once you enter a level, the narrator may or may not give some clues, after which a timer starts. This doesn’t usually have much impact on the game, unless you replay something to try to get a faster time.
However, certain levels do have a time limit, which completely transforms the gameplay style from something slow and methodical to urgent and frantic. These thematic changes serve the game well, as they break up what would otherwise become monotonous.
One of the only problems in Delusions is the camera. Several different levels of zoom can be used at the player’s discretion to best complete the game. Players can pull far out to view the entire building, view just a single room, or focus directly on Von Sottendorff.
Players directly control the camera with the d-pad, but the angle can’t be adjusted very much. Plus, if Von Sottendorff finds himself in tight quarters, finding an angle where the rest of the room remains visible is almost impossible. These problems would be completely fixed if walls and other parts of the environment could become temporarily transparent, as in many other games.
On the technical side, sometimes the frame rate drops a bit in the bigger levels, and loading times tend to be a little lengthy. Also, I encountered a few glitches that crashed the game entirely. Although these issues sound major, the glitches were far and few between, and the frame rate drops were only slightly more frequent.
Not many puzzle platformers, or games in general, can capture your attention so completely with its atmosphere alone. The odd, yet haunting melodies say more about Von Sottendorff’s character than any narrator could. The puzzles ease the player in but become quite difficult by the end. And although the camera issues create a fair amount of frustration, they don’t damage the game too badly. If you’re looking for a thought provoking and generally slower paced game, The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and his Square Mind would be an excellent addition to your 3DS library.