The Great Perhaps is a title that leaves you thinking about the story hours after completing it. It’s a game designed to be savored, and played slowly, focusing on atmosphere and nurturing a complex and haunting story.
You play as Kosmos, an astronaut who has spent the last century in cryogenic sleep. He quickly learns that some cataclysmic event has wiped out humanity, and everyone is dead including his wife and child. His initial reaction is to commit suicide by having the A.I., L9, remove all oxygen from the ship. Instead, L9 convinces Kosmos to return to Earth. Kosmos will promptly venture down into a post-apocalyptic and Soviet-inspired Earth in search of life and answers.
With only a spacesuit and L9, the game starts you off at a desolate farm-like setting. Very soon, you will encounter a lamp with a unique property— it allows your character to time-travel between the past and the present. Here, you are able to glimpse the world before the apocalyptic event that wiped out humanity. This leads Kosmos to try to find a way to save everyone. While you can use your lantern to jump to the past infinite times, there is a time limit for how long you can remain in that time before you are forced back into the present. Throughout the game, you use this feature to solve puzzles while searching for a sign of life, which L9 detects upon landing. As you progress, a dark figure will start to appear and chase you through certain scenes.
The gameplay is relatively simple. The main feature you will use to solve puzzles is the lantern, where you have the option to just press the button to view the past from your current time, and holding down where you are physically transported there. The puzzles usually involve finding some object from one timezone and bringing it into the other. This drives the story forward and allows you to experience both worlds, before and after destruction.
You will also encounter a grid-like puzzle a few times during the story, where you must retrieve some missing items and align the pipes to achieve the next objective.
The hand-drawn art style is one of my favorite aspects of the game. Every backdrop is absolutely gorgeous, depicting a Soviet-influenced world. The game takes you through a variety of themes and each one is a pleasure to explore.
The soundtrack is also fitting to each theme and adds an overall atmospheric and haunting element to the game. It does well in capturing the essence of this post-apocalyptic world, in all its emptiness and mystery. When the dark figure chases you, it switches to suspense, generating a sense of urgency and danger in the game. This title excelled in matching its soundtrack to the story.
The game is also fully voiced-over. L9 takes on a somewhat sarcastic personality, whereas Kosmos adopts a steadily calm voice. This adds a very nice touch to the overall atmosphere.
While the game as a whole was an enjoyable experience for me, it is by no means perfect. Some of the aspects of it might be enough to turn some people off from the game. The overall objective of the story was fairly clear, but the progression tended to feel disconnected. It also engaged some themes in an odd way. For example, suicide is introduced early in the game. Yet, not only is it brushed over with Kosmos in the introduction, but later in the game, your character approaches a man contemplating jumping off the roof of a building. You’re tasked with stopping this man from jumping, but the character interaction feels trivial and emotionless. It almost felt like this was thrown in as a casual obstacle. While I can understand the game is dark, this did not feel dark— it ended up feeling tasteless.
I also would have liked to see more cohesion between Kosmos’ backstory and the progression of the game. In the beginning, your character is searching for answers as to what happened to his family, and later attempting to save everyone. However, the game offers no further backstory and does not attempt to introduce any. It completely seems to fleet over the fact that Kosmos awakens to realize everyone is dead, and instead you are sent off on an emotionless journey, without ever touching base on Kosmos’ personal past. In fact, throughout the story, the only real interactions happen between Kosmos and L9. All other characters seem to be randomly thrown in as superficial obstacles. This feels like a wasted opportunity for adding more depth into such a story-driven game.
Another thing to note is the lack of direction in what to do, considering that the way to progress throughout the game involved some less-than-intuitive solutions to puzzles. This was not a big problem for me, as this is a game you would pick up for the sense of atmosphere and story, but this could be off-putting to some. It may require some trial and error, and the solution might not make much “sense” from a realistic perspective. It makes it feel less like a puzzle and more like aimless wandering in some (but not all) of the encounters.
The game takes a little over an hour to beat but finishing it feels like a whole experience. It’s atmospheric, beautiful, and down-right haunting. Without giving away spoilers, the ending was perhaps the greatest twist of it all. This is a game that will stick with you for hours, maybe days, after completing it. Anyone up for a good story will enjoy this title.
The Great Perhaps is available on the eShop now.