Are time loops still in vogue? Woodhill Interactive seems to think so. Orten Was the Case is an adventure game with free movement that looks to capitalise on a repeatable time-frame and a small but interesting location. Whilst repetition isn’t always the best for games, the balance seems to be well struck with small windows of opportunity being greatly benefited by genuine hindsight.
Orten is a town minutes from disaster. To be more exact, the story gives you a mere eleven minutes to prevent the Scandinavian citizens from being blown to bits. What follows is a narrative involving corporate skulduggery, local resistance and some supernatural elements that give the game an interesting story. Within the crude and occasionally grimy world, it’s not too far-fetched and comes together relatively well.
The characters are fairly mundane, with a couple of colourful exceptions. Ziggy and his friends are typical teenage layabouts. They get up to minor misdemeanours but Ziggy’s ability to reset time does give him the means to poke and prod at the town’s underbelly. It all feels very localised and condensed. I sense that mostly everyone knows each other and that does help keep a feeling of community very strong.
The time loop, and the small, intricate layout of the town does allow you to get familiar with the place. There’s shortcuts, platforms and ways to move around fairly quickly. The early runs unveil the town slowly, peeling away layers are you progress. Ziggy has the benefit of hindsight so, as long as a puzzle solution or door code has been revealed, those obstacles can be circumvented.
Admittedly, it can lead to repetition. I never felt many of the loops were tight with only the final one being somewhat strict. Everything up to that had a room for error that never made things too bothersome. By the end, I was confident I could get what I needed to finish the tale. Time saves can be found in other ways with a freedom of movement allowing corners to be cut in traversal. It is not always perfect. Some ledges and overhangs can be tricky to grasp and dropping down does result in fall damage.
Not that death is a genuine threat when every day is repeatable. With the loops being so short, any errors I made set me back a couple of minutes. Checkpoints are unlocked at set locations so you can repeat from there, if you wish. They can be good places to set up base camp, assuming you’ve got the time on the clock to complete another objective or grab another club.
Keeping track of missions and clues is straight-forward. Ziggy has a logbook you can regularly check and a timeline fills in as you discover more events. It’s a good way of keeping track of the world’s clockwork state whilst reiterating your next step in a questline. Clues are also recorded, outlaying where to find important information. None of the puzzles felt obtuse or difficult to decipher. Most of them stop the clock if you’re tinkering with them.
It’s quite impressive how each part fits together and how I rarely felt like I was standing still. The loop feels smartly designed and, whilst the game has 11 minutes to play out, it took me ours to methodically unravel the whole mystery. On top of this, there are multiple endings to find which makes replaying a worthwhile expedition.
Unfortunately, I do find the game has hiccups. In particular if I’m loading from a checkpoint. I’ve had Ziggy spawn outside of of bounds and points of interaction break completely. It’s nothing a reload doesn’t fix but it’s still a concern. The perspective can also make some movement and jumps difficult to judge. Falling is rarely fatal but it can cost valuable time on a run to repeat steps. Combat features a couple of times. It’s basic and works fairly well. You have an attack to deal damage and a roll to get yourself out of harm’s way.
I do love the gritty, rough presentation. The characters have an exaggerated look which gives them plenty of personality. The town has plenty of detail and, despite it’s small size, there’s some variety as you traverse further uphill. Each home has plenty of look at and gives each person a sense of place. Voice acting is very slight but sounds occasionally warped and weird in the right kind of ways. The soundtrack is perhaps less memorable. I don’t recall much of it outside of the closing scenes.
Orten Was the Case does well to implement its time loop to create a tight, connected location. With some relatively sensible logic and a concise logbook, I never felt confused by my next objective. Whilst 11 minutes might not be much time to save the town, repeated loops and the slow unveiling of the narrative make this game stand out from the genre. It’s a shame the platforming and movement isn’t as precise and checkpoints aren’t always ideally placed.
+ The time loop allows for lots of clockwork interactions.
+ Missions seem smartly designed with plenty of hints and feedback.
+ Puzzles rarely feel obtuse.
- Not every checkpoint is ideally placed.
- Presentation can be a little rough.
- Familiarising yourself with the town can take some time.