It may have fallen off our radars for a while, but the Return of the Obra Dinn—the next project from Papers, Please developer Lucas Pope—has, well, returned, in the form of a new work-in-progress demo that's available to play now.
In case you missed it first time round, the Return of the Obra Dinn is a stylish, monochromatic first-person mystery game set in 1807 that equips players with a magical time-altering pocket watch and tasks them with investigating a lost ship. We gave the demo a whirl this morning and came away impressed by the amount of detail in the environment despite the lo-fi aesthetic. Everything is filtered through a harsh, four-bit pixelated filter, probably meant to evoke the feeling of exploring something old and lost, which is exactly what you're doing in the game. There's even a few chromatic filters in the options that correspond to old-timey computer colors: Macintosh, Commodore 64, and so on.
As for what you do on board: hold the stopwatch over a dead body and you're transported to a frozen scene, the last minutes of that poor skeleton's life. Your only goal is to figure out who everyone is, and how they died, by exploring these frozen scenes.
The demo marks the first we've seen of the seafaring story since the tail end of 2014, and is by and large the same demo Pope showcased at GDC with the addition of new music, a new flashback scene, and a new intro sequence with voiced dialogue. Otherwise it's not all that different from the earlier build—something Pope addresses directly via his TIGForums devlogs.
"Well the game isn't done yet but I wanted to establish a bunch of excuses [to] look back now on why the current GDC demo isn't clearly 1.5 years better than the old development build," he says. "The primary culprit is that the tools/pipeline/systems that I built for the vertical slice did not scale up (at all) to making a full game. A lot of time was spent on small obvious stuff and I spun my wheels here and there just waiting for random inspiration at times."
Nevertheless, the Return of the Obra Dinn is really interesting in its current state. See for yourself by grabbing the free demo over on itch.io for Windows or Mac.