When recommending Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist you’re recommending more than just a headline-busting title: it’s the latest in a line of fascinating games about games; it’s from William Pugh, one of the minds behind The Stanley Parable; it’s a comedy game that’s actually funny (still all too rare); and it’s totally, entirely, 100% free.
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is also a lie. The whole title is a selection of things you won’t find in the game, 2015’s equivalent of a misleading ‘90s back-of-the-box feature checklist boasting ‘20 jaw dropping levels’ and ‘More than 35 explosive weapons!’ when all they’ve really done is re-skin an assault rifle 15 times.
There wasn’t even a single emerald to be found — terribly cursed or otherwise.
Instead, accompanied by on-the-verge-of-giggles narration from British comedian Simon Amstell, I’m tasked with masterminding someone else’s playthrough of the game, exploring behind-the-scenes, becoming developer rather than gamer, creator rather than critic.
Well, sort of.
Self aware, oh-didn’t-you-know-you’re-playing-a-game video games have a tendency to bring out my stubborn side. My typically docile, compliant gaming self suddenly becomes all too aware that it’s following arbitrary instructions, and my pointlessly rebellious teenage self tends to assert itself. Oh, you want me to push that button over there? Well then, I guess you can just watch me not push it for a while then.
As I ramble around the backstage area of this fictional fiction, I push buttons out of order, twist water valves and, if all else fails, simply dawdle as long as I can bear it after being told to move on. It’s not clear exactly what point I’m trying to prove, or who I’m trying to prove it to, not least when it’s the sort of futile reactionary nonsense the entire game has been built to elicit, encouraging me to reject commands and ignore instructions, watching as the game crumbles purposefully around me.
Thankfully, the game knows how to draw my stubborn response out with humor. Where The Stanley Parable co-designer Davey Wreden explored that game’s darker elements further in the moody, surreal The Beginner’s Guide, Pugh adopts a lighter touch. There’s none of The Beginner’s Guide’s introspection here, instead cheerfully teasing widespread misperceptions about game development in an exasperated exploration of the developer/player relationship more interesting in poking fun than pointing fingers.
DLTTaTTCE: AWH is a brief-burning experience, its singular focus offering a quick exploration of a solitary idea, free of the interactive sprawl of The Stanley Parable. With that, though, comes the feeling of possibilities left unexplored, of an idea not quite new enough and not quite taken to its limits. Still, for 15 minutes of unfettered lunacy, entirely free of charge, who the fuck am I to complain?