I bought Over the Alps purely for the art. I saw it on Steam (opens in new tab), knowing nothing about it, and slapped my $10 on the counter the moment I saw those screenshots. Inspired by vintage travel posters, with a touch of Wes Anderson, this is one of the prettiest games I've played in a while. The colours, the typography, the stylised landscapes—it's a delight to look at.
Originally released on Apple Arcade last year, but now available on PC, Over the Alps is a wonderfully tense, twisting interactive spy story set in Switzerland in the days leading up to World War 2. It's a gooey fondue of drama, mystery, intrigue, romance, and humour, and I loved every second of it.(opens in new tab)
The story is told, cleverly, through postcards sent by the main character to a friend back in England. In them he recounts his adventures as a British secret agent in Switzerland in 1939, and you decide what he writes—determining the route you take through this short, but perfectly formed, story.
Dialogue options and choices are represented by stamps, the designs of which dictate how you act and speak. It's through these that you establish your personality, deciding whether you're the brash, no-nonsense type, a smooth-talking romantic, a wily deceiver, or a dozen other things. Pick a stamp and you'll slap it on the postcard, which is a neat little visual flourish.
This stamp system lets you decide exactly what kind of agent you want to be, and the story reacts to your decisions in fun, meaningful ways. Over the Alps was penned by alumni from interactive fiction masters Inkle and Failbetter, and it shows in the superb writing. Every conversation sparkles with with wit and charm. The characters are interesting, the setting evocative, and the mystery unpredictable—exactly what you want from a spy thriller.(opens in new tab)
You can finish the story in under two hours, or less if you're a fast reader. But the beauty of Over the Alps—like Inkle's magnificent 80 Days (opens in new tab)—is how replayable it is. The major story beats remain largely the same each time you play, but you can carve a few wildly different paths through the narrative.
And there's a joy in replaying certain scenes knowing the hidden motives of characters, or avoiding pitfalls that caught you out the first time. Over the Alps is full of danger and double-crossing, and making a bad decision can lead to a comedy of errors. But the good news is that these are as brilliantly written as everything else, so it's actually worth occasionally screwing up.
And I was excited to discover that this is just one of three planned stories. Developer Stave Studios (opens in new tab) is currently working on more, and I can't wait to get tangled up in another alpine conspiracy. This is an inspired setting for a game, and I want to spend more time in it. If you love interactive fiction, Hitchcock, spy stories, or just great writing, Over the Alps is worth a hike.