Game: Cosmic Top Secret
Genre: Adventure, Education, Puzzle
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam, Xbox One, iOS, & Android)
Developer|Publisher: Klassefilm, Those Eyes | Nakana.io
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: US $9.99 | UK £8.99 | EU € 9,99
Release Date: May 21st, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Nakana.io
Video Game Documentary
When I first saw the trailer for Cosmic Top Secret I thought this would be one of those unusual indie games with a comical art style and bizarre gameplay. What I discovered is a documentary about a daughter learning about her parent’s past manifested rather cleverly into a video game. If you’re looking for a gaming experience that is truly different from the norm this title is well worth looking into.
They Have a Secret
You play as Trine (or T as she is referred to in-game) she’s on a mission to discover what her parents were up to when working for the Danish Intelligence during the Cold War. Since her parents are bound by a confidentiality agreement it won’t be as simple as sitting them down and getting to the truth.
The goal of the game is to explore these large open maps looking for 9 hidden items (or intel) that have a story or fact tied to them which you can then view or read about in the menu. The game will also sometimes play live-action videos, mostly of T interviewing her father. Once all the pieces are collected you need to solve some simple puzzles to find a number or letter code to progress to the next area.
Initially, it was a bit confusing understanding what exactly was going on But the more I progressed the more I genuinely enjoyed learning about the mystery. It’s not just about T’s parents, you also learn about T’s relationship with them, her own secret and coming to terms with the situation.
I enjoyed flipping through the notes, looking at the pictures and playing the videos. All the audio from the game is recorded from T’s actual interviews with her parents as well as a large cast of other characters. Everything is presented in English subtitled speech bubbles and the quality of the audio varies widely as it’s clear a lot of it was probably recorded on T’s phone whenever she had the opportunity.
My only niggle with the documentary side is that some sections of the story feel too bloated. A lot of the audio clips are just pointless banter where characters are talking about things unrelated to the story such as a character’s wife’s sensitivity to magnetic fields or some characters just explaining how their day is. These moments don’t harm the game but could have easily been cut and nothing missed.
Touch or Analogue
The controls are generally ok with some mild niggles. You can play the game with the controller or touch controls. I found the best way to enjoy the experience was a hybrid of the two in handheld mode. When T moves about she rolls into a cardboard ball and when she stands still she pops back into her cardboard cut out. Movement felt incredibly awkward with the touch controls since you need to use two fingers and it just didn’t feel natural to me. Movement felt more manageable with the analogue stick but still quite jerky. Sometimes, you have to fight with the camera to see where you are going.
I also had a few occasions where I got stuck in the environments and had to reload the game, fortunately, it saves very often. When you’re examining notes or want to access certain menus it’s much easier to make use of the touch controls than using the buttons on the controller. T can also throw a grenade (yes, this game is weird) to knock down posts or find secrets. The grenade smoke also marks on your map in case you lose your bearings and don’t know where to go. The game also throws in a few other cool mechanics like flying a cardboard plane and special glasses to see the world differently. There is enough game-like mechanics to keep you engaged.
The overall challenge is quite light. You can’t really fail in the game apart from in some small segments. But when this happens T usually splits apart (literally) and you have to stick her back together. If you get lost you can get an idea of where hidden intel items are by looking at the map and checking the coordinates.
The game in general does a good job offering you advice on the light puzzle segments, should you find it too confusing. There are also red stars that float into the sky that help you identify where the next place to go is. This really is an experience the developers want you to see to its conclusion.
The graphical style is likely to turn heads due to its unusual visuals. The characters and the environments in the game are all cardboard cutouts of real photographic images giving the feeling of a living scrapbook. The characters themselves all have cartoony eyes which aim to give the whole experience a more comical and family-friendly feel. It’s a design that initially really confused me but it did start to rub off once I progressed past the first chapter.
There was also one moment I have to give additional praise. Later in the game you discover a character is struggling with depression. As you approach them the colour scheme dilutes into shades of grey and as you move away from the character the colours return. This was some impressive attention to detail that didn’t go unnoticed by me.
The game has 5 chapters in total. There are also additional collectables to find, in order to uncover all the secret documents. You’re looking at about 5 hours of gameplay, I found the best way to enjoy the game was one chapter at a time for play sessions. There is a lovely credits scene at the end that I really enjoyed, which explains some of the inspiration behind the game design.
It’s worth pointing out this game will not be for everyone. When going into this you’re looking at a more narrative, documentary experience. You’ll also need to pay attention fully to the game as there is a lot to read and process. If you’re looking for something to shut your brain off whilst listening to a podcast this will be hard to juggle at the same time.
Conclusion – The Truth Will Set You Free
Cosmic Top Secret ended up being a delightful experience for me. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of the unusual art style and documentary design. But the more I progressed, the more I learned and became genuinely interested in the subject matter.
I think of this game like one of those one off exhibits you see at a museum, only here you can enjoy the experience in the comfort of your own home on the sofa or your favourite chair. Give it a go, you might learn something and possibly get the feels. This is a secret well worth discovering.
Final Verdict: I like it a lot