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Puzzle Game Lorelei And The Laser Eyes Should Be Played With A Buddy

I cannot be trusted alone with tasks and math

A woman stands before the gates of a hotel

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is a puzzle game that came out last week, which half of my Twitter timeline has been raving about since it was announced back in April’s Nintendo indie showcase. Now that I can play it myself, I can see what’s gotten so many people excited, but I think you need to play with a friend to really get it.

In Lorelei and the Laser Eyes (by the developers of the very good Sayonara Wild Hearts), you play a woman who arrives at a mysterious hotel to meet an even-more-mysterious filmmaker, who wants… something from her. To make a movie? To find his missing script pages? To solve a murder? I’m not sure! The game’s story is obscure, and basically everything is gated behind puzzles. And these aren’t your standard “flip the switch” or “find the key” puzzles: they’re actual math, using both Roman and Arabic numerals, and they also involve rotating things or solving logic tricks or paying very very close attention to your environment. Everything is puzzles. Sometimes you solve a puzzle to unlock a room and inside the room is another puzzle! It’s puzzles all the way down!

The game advises you to play with a notebook, which is definitely a must-have for scratching out calculations and organizing your thoughts. (I‘ve found using my phone as a calculator or to take pictures of certain things on my computer screen to be helpful too.) The game automatically adds every task you discover and document you open to a menu that is comprehensive but a bit clunky to navigate. There are a lot of tasks and documents; when I first started playing, I decided to explore the hotel before trying to follow whatever the story is, wandering from room to room encountering puzzles. This means my menus are now stuffed with orders to unlock doors and find tapes and solve puzzle boxes and open document tubes and navigate a creepy maze and figure out an intimidating machine.

I’m worried that exploring first might have been the wrong approach, because now I’m thoroughly overwhelmed with things to do. I’m partially through a bunch of puzzles, which I abandoned when I wasn’t sure how to proceed or if it seemed like I hadn’t found some necessary piece of information yet. So now, in addition to my in-game notebook of tasks, my real-life notebook is full of notes about how far through those tasks I am, making for quite a bit of chaos. 

Lest this all sound like a mess, there is some guidance in the form of red footprints on the floor, which are at least helping me realize I should prioritze the tasks related to those story beats. I’m a bit stuck on some of them, which have led to puzzles I don’t quite understand yet. The game really wants you to think for yourself, which makes it feel more like a “get up early and play with coffee” game than the “squeeze in some hours before bed” game my schedule’s had me treat it as so far. This is compelling–many games, following a sensible instinct to be broadly approachable, are careful to make their puzzles clear and not too hard. But Lorelei really goes for it, dumping a pile of headscratchers on you and trusting you to make your way through them. I know the answers are all in there somewhere, in my in-game notebook or scattered around the hotel or within my math abilities. It feels like a very fair game; I just have to figure out how to tackle it.

On social media, my friends have told stories of realizing solutions after talking them over with someone else. After a few nights of solo play sessions, that really seems like the way to go: having another person around to talk the logic through with, or just to help me pick a thread to pull on next. The game is also a little bit creepy, though not strictly speaking a horror game, and so the stress of doing math is compounded by the vibes to make the experience a little bit tense for me to be playing alone at night. (I am, it should be noted, very much a horror wuss; your mileage may vary.) It feels like the kind of game that really opens up with someone sitting next to you to share in the delight of discovery, narrate your thought process out loud, and help remember which document the clues to a puzzle are hidden away in. 

Lorelei is a very unique and intriguing game, and I’ve been turning it over in my head all weekend. I’m really excited to keep digging into it– with a little help. I have the perfect buddy in mind for this task, whom I am going to email this blog to after I publish it. Unfortunately, coordinating our schedules will be its own puzzle, a challenge very much on par with the challenges in the game. If you’re playing, alone or with a friend, I’d love to hear how you’re finding it.

Update, 5/21/24, 7:30am--My friend came over last night, and we got through so much more of the game than I did on my own, and we had a blast! There's one puzzle in particular that was so much easier to solve with two people than it would have been alone. Having someone else help decide where to go next kept me from wandering around piling tasks on myself, and it was so helpful to talk puzzles out with someone. We're already pissed that our schedules won't line up again for a few more days, because we had to drag ourselves away from the game to do responsible adult things like go home and go to bed. Playing with another person is really helping me see what's got people so excited about the game. Would recommend!

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