A scene from Obduction.

Game review: Obduction is a beautiful and infuriating world of puzzles and mysteries

New game from creators of Myst and Riven presents a visually enticing journey that hides something sinister


Cyan Worlds

4/5 stars

Remember when puzzle games were hard? As in so hard that you’d become so frustrated that you’d almost kick your computer screen in?

Game developer Cyan Worlds remembers – they’re probably the ones that tortured you back then anyway, as they’re the ingenious but vicious minds behind PC classics such as Myst and Riven.

They’ve stayed busy in the two decades since those games first confounded us, churning out sequels, spin-offs and remakes of their two hits. But now they are back with another fascinating world of migraine-inducing mysteries, in Obduction.

It’s the same thing again, in so many words: a beautiful, visually enticing journey through a world that feels both familiar and outlandish. Slices of Americana abound, a comforting small-town setting of rocky mountains, old-fashioned filling stations and abandoned train carriages.

But of course, there’s something sinister behind it all, and without receiving any help whatsoever you will eventually find a creepy underworld, one of hologram characters mouthing strange words, strange vistas that you swore you saw – and a string orchestra that induces the occasional heart attack when it chimes in.

Slices of Americana abound in Obduction.

Should I even bother telling you about the puzzles, the hidden in plain sight dilemmas that initially seem easy to solve, but often require a labyrinthine journey to find a lever or a strange clue that leads somewhere else? Probably not – it’s best I don’t scare you away from this fascinating but complicated world, especially considering how impossibly tough it gets during the game’s final few hours.

Nobody is forcing you to play Obduction. You know that, at many times, you’re going to absolutely hate it. You’re going to scream out in terror, run through the entire length of its gorgeously crafted world seeking out that one lost clue, and no doubt end of up wasting half a day on virtually nothing. But the beauty of its otherworldliness, its sinister underlying menace and the challenge it offers is hard for some of us hard-core gamers to resist. Come on, I dare you.