It’s a rare gamic event that gets me to put a release date in my calendar. The strangest of them is a free-to-play fifteen minute experience that’s available right now on Steam. Why did I get so excited for Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist? Because William Pugh made it.
William Pugh was one of the co-creators of The Stanley Parable, a 2011 meta-narrative (expanded upon in 2013) in which a British narrator guided the player on a linear quest. The joy of Stanley’s quest became choosing when to abandon the intended path and the narrator-God. It encouraged rebellion as a painful yet hilarious means of discovery — both begging you to listen to reason and rewarding insane behavior.
Which is why I was so excited for this new outing. While smaller in scope, it builds on the success of Stanley while doing something else entirely.
From the Steam description provided by Davey Wreden:
It’s the hottest summer on record, and all across Europe, valuable objects are disappearing. Museum curators unlock cabinets and find precious artefacts stolen. Wealthy mansion owners wake up to see their priceless paintings have vanished from the walls. One thing’s clear: a master thief is touring the continent and the police are left scratching their heads.*
In this 15 minute game by Crows Crows Crows, a team led by William Pugh (The Stanley Parable), slip into the soft-soled shoes of the mastermind responsible…*
As was the case with Stanley before it, this might be the time for you to go play this game yourself, especially if you’re a Steam user, because you already own it.
As DLTTATTCE:AWH opens, you think you’re entering into what will be another highly characterized roguelike mission where you’ll either accomplish a crime or be thwarted by a series of traps. Instead, you’re dropped into a first person world backstage from the game itself, where a beleaguered game director announces that someone else is already playing the title you’ve downloaded, so you’ll need to find your own way around in the mechanizations of the gameworld, just to get to the entertainment unit itself. You’re essentially stage managing someone else’s grand adventure.
Along the way, you’ll perform hum-drum assignments while picking up clues from the detritus of the world. While there are mixtapes and pencils aplenty, the notes left behind build a backstory of an entire production team who has abandoned the posts from fear of death in such a mismanaged nightmare factory. Your goal is to make enough small choices to torture the other player into either completing their heist or maybe meeting a suitable end so you can finally take over.
As mentioned, this is the kind of rush-to-show-everyone excitement that Stanley built, mostly because a single playthrough will get you through everything you need. There’s a cycle built into the story’s top-level plot this time around, and very rare opportunities to betray your (again, delightfully British) narrator. This isn’t to say that William Pugh and team haven’t built a unique experience — this is a wacky bit of gamic and story satire that also comes off in moments as almost wounded in its sincerity. Simon Amstell does a terrific job voicing your Director and lives in a moment of peak frustration that forced even me to step away from the computer for a moment to regain my composure.
It’s a short, straightforward-ish free experience and a great outing from company Crows Crows Crows as they begin to find their footing. I’m impressed, entertained, and I won’t soon forget the experience — which is the best review I can give for anything at this point.