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I Like The Way Lorelei And The Laser Eyes Thinks

The game makes sense out of nonsense

A screenshot from "Lorelei and the Laser Eyes:" a woman stands in a red maze, which is fractured into different pieces

After writing about Lorelei and the Laser Eyes last week, a friend and I have been playing it obsessively, cramming in the hours until the phrase “It’s locked” appears in our dreams. As I predicted, the game is a lot more fun with a buddy–one who can bring a new perspective but doesn’t have to bring new knowledge, because of the excellent design choice to put everything you need to solve the game’s puzzles in the game itself.

Lorelei is crammed with books, notes, posters, and signs, all of which get saved in your character’s memory. This stashed stuff, as far as I can tell, contains all the information you need to solve the puzzles the game throws at you. There’s a document about Roman numerals, and one explaining strobogrammatic numbers, and one explaining astrological signs, and one explaining the Greek alphabet, all concepts you’ll need to know. If you need to know a name or a date, you’ll find something inside the hotel with the answer or a clue to it. 

I appreciate this for a couple reasons. For one, it means that when my friend and I felt like a puzzle was referencing something we didn’t understand, we knew we’d find it somewhere along the line, instead of assuming it was some gap in our own knowledge. We knew not to rush to Google like many other puzzle games assume you will or require you to. Lorelei drives this idea home in a couple of pivotal puzzles I won’t spoil for you, both of which require knowledge about the game and its environments. It subtly tells you how to think about and pay attention to the game, while also making Lorelei’s strange hotel feel like its own unique, contained world. 

This design also gave us some guardrails when trying to figure out what a puzzle wanted. The other night, we were attempting to solve a puzzle with a list of numbers and some blanked-out spaces, and we weren’t sure what it was asking us to do. My friend thought she’d seen a similar type of puzzle before in her own life, but I’d never heard of that kind of thing; it seemed like an obscure, specialized kind of math, or at least not one commonly encountered. Because of this, we figured that it was probably not what the game wanted us to do; we tried it anyway (or, my friend did some wild thing with numbers in our notebook while I watched), and sure enough, it wasn’t the solution.

In a similar vein, from what I’ve seen so far, puzzles follow a certain consistent internal logic that I also appreciate. Puzzles seem to fall into certain categories: all the movie posters near locked doors require referring to a certain piece of information; all these [spoilers] fit into [spoilers]; all these safes are opened with clues from nearby documents. (What do I do with the things in the safes? No idea!) This has helped my friend and I know where not to look when trying to solve something, or kept us on track when we’d start spinning wild connections between disparate pieces of information. This can be maddening–there’s one puzzle we’ve been staring at for hours, having no idea how to translate its clue into action, but we know it’s in there–but it’s also comforting–from what I’ve seen so far, the game isn’t going to throw a curveball at us by changing up the logic of a category of puzzle. Puzzles seem like they stay in their lanes, as it were; despite how overwhelming all these puzzles felt when I first encountered them, now that I understand the basics of what they want, they feel far less stressful. (Again, this doesn’t mean I have any idea how to solve many of them!) 

The more my friend and I have played, the more I’ve come to see and appreciate how Lorelei thinks, to see how fair and reasonable it is even when it drops something in my lap that makes me yell “what the fuck?!” and throw my pen across the room. Don’t get me wrong, the game is positively maddening, but I know when I’m stumped that it’s a question of how I’m thinking about a puzzle, not because I’m not so great at math or because there’s some trick. Many solutions have been surprising, but they haven’t felt illogical or like they came out of nowhere. 

We haven’t finished the game yet, though it feels like we’re heading toward the end of its narrative. There’s still a host of puzzles that we have no clue how to solve or if we even need to solve them to finish, so it’s possible there’s something I haven’t seen yet that will throw this blog out the window. (If you’ve finished it and I’m wrong about all this, let me know!) But Lorelei and the Laser Eyes has gone from a game that intimidated and frustrated me at first glance to one whose world and logic I can’t get enough of, whose puzzles I take pictures of on my phone to stare at when I’m not at my desk. I’m both excited to solve its biggest puzzles and find out how it ends, and one of those games I feel like I never want to be done with.

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