GAMING: Half Hour Games – Dr. Langeskov, the Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

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Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is a short whirlwind heist simulator made in Unity and released December 4, 2015 by Crows Crows Crows. In it you play a mysterious cat burglar, whose crime spree has taken them to the fabulous mansion of Dr. Langeskov for one of the greatest heists of the 20th century. Slip past the mansion’s guards, beware of Langeskov’s precious pet tiger, and the emerald may be yours – just watch out for its terrible curse… A truly terrible curse… yeah…

Oh, who are we kidding? We can’t do this. This place is in shambles and we’re not going to waste our time writing a review when we’re not even being paid a living wage. We haven’t gotten paid in two months and they expect us to do a whole review for this game. Well, we’re sick of it. Sick of it. We’re joining the strike. Forget this. You can get someone else to make the jump, you sickos.

Editor’s Note: We apologize for the inconvenience rendered by our writer before the jump. We have entered contract negotiations with our writers and will resume normal reviewing process. Thank you for your patience.

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Dr. Langeskov functions largely as the premiere of Crows Crows Crows, an indie game studio formed by William Pugh. Pugh previously worked at another minor game studio, Galactic Cafe, as one half of the design team behind the mind-bendingly, influentially meta (and apparently, memorably homoromantic) interactive fiction game The Stanley Parable.

It’s worth noting that given the established sense of humor, Dr. Langeskov features heavy depersonalization and comes with a twist that may induce dissociation in viewers; we’ve taken care in this article not to ‘ruin it for you’, per se, but tread lightly.

Ostensibly, this game is indeed about A Whirlwind Heist to steal The Terribly Cursed Emerald from the mansion of a fellow named Dr. Langeskov whilst avoiding The Tiger. But once you play it, you’ll never get to see it that way.

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Instead, due to severe budget cuts, you’ll be working as a stagehand to assist another player in their game. Be prepared to work lighting and weather systems, manage the vicious namesake tiger in its carrying cage, and even work on the very miscellaneous gameplay interactions without even once seeing the result of your handiwork. For the whole of the game, you’ll be guided around by an unseen voice – evidently the stage director of this whole fiasco – as he tries to manage what little staff he has left to run the show with in the face of an enormous union strike.

Artistically, this game is nothing short of a masterpiece. The level of detail is incredible. Dr. Langeskov has some of the best texture work we’ve seen in a game. Every little detail is rendered to the most minute of precision, from sticky notes pasted on the walls to random sheets of paper covered in doodles. Hardly a stone has been left unturned to detail.

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Even the sound design charmed us to bits. There’s only one place in the game (outside of the credits, of course) where music plays, and it’s the climax of the story. At first, it feels out of place; once you’re in the action of that area and the frantic layers of catastrophes begin to unfold, you’ll barely notice it was there.

But there’s one place that’s more important than anything else in the game, more important than the graphics, music, or even gameplay: voice work. Simon Amstell plays a major role as a befuddled English character trying to guide us through our adventure; Amstell’s performance has drawn comparisons to Stephen Merchant’s voice work as Wheatley in Portal 2. The character remains mostly in the range of “confused and upset”, but really shines during the climactic scene where he’s driven past the brink of total blubbering frustration.

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After the fact…

Of course, this game is extremely short and left us with quite a few nitpicks. You can pick up documents on the floor to read them, but if you move too far away from where you found them, you’ll automatically drop them. This is coupled with a rather glitchy pick-up system: it’s difficult to pick up items next to corners or other collidable objects, meaning that we didn’t even notice on our first playthrough that we could pick them up.

The game is also very linear. Unlike The Stanley Parable, there is only one story path to be seen. You can fiddle with the environment to prompt a variety of amusing responses, and there are achievements to gather based on collecting various pickups, so there is a semblance of replay value… if you can even get them; we found out the hard way that the achievements were completely broken on release. Not exactly impressive.

There are definitely some issues, like the broken achievements and clicking ten times just to pick up a franc on the floor. But we have to say, the one thing that we were impressed by is that this is a surprisingly accessible game. Subtitles are turned on by default. There’s no finicky, pixel-perfect interactions that are essential to the gameplay experience, and there are no punishments for doing timing-based events incorrectly (you get whined at a little, but not punished).

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There were even some surprising decisions: all doors open automatically, instead of forcing you to locate the handle. As long as you can find the color-coded lighting, you can proceed to the next room; as such, you can experience nearly the entire game without clicking. The only hangups are mostly phone-related, as there’s at least one instance where you have to locate and click on a phone to progress, but the game gives you all the time you need to figure it out.

There are some fun cameos. Voice actor Justin Roiland (better known as the creator of the cartoon Rick and Morty) reprises his high-pitched whining as a man obsessed with pencils. Mason Palos, co-creator of soon-to-be hit new game Burrito Galaxy, gets credit for… something? We’re pretty sure we saw their art as a sticker on a phone, but we’re not sure.

Completable in half an hour: Yes
Even completionism is possible in half an hour if you know what you’re looking for. You’ll probably have seen everything there is to see by the third playthrough if you’re dedicated.

5 out of 5 – Simply Superb!
Even though it had come out at the very tail end of the year, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist might just be a shoe-in for our Game of the Year. Yes, even the game itself seems to be aware of just how good it is, mentioning that it might win several awards right in certain pieces of dialog – and we really can’t blame them for their hubris. This game deserves to be played, and considering we beat it in about 20 minutes (stopping to appreciate the idle dialogue, too), you don’t have an excuse to not do so.

Sure, it’s not without fault, but we took our time to mention the gameplay issues; those faults are so minor it’s practically unfair to bring them up at all. This is a Good Game.

Now, about those contract negotiations… We’ll be getting dental in 2016, right? If not, I’m walking…

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You can play Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist for free on Itch.io or on Steam.

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