Wot I Think – Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is the new game from the new studio from William Pugh, co-developer of The Stanley Parable. It starts British comedian Simon Amstell, and could arguably be said to maybe possibly feature a grappling hook. It’s free, and out now, and here’s whether it’s worth your precious, precious time.

Typical. There’s not a lot I can say, is there? These lads determinedly make games which are so dependent on surprise and delight and most of all discovering them for yourselves that a critic’s only role, at least until everyone else has played the thing, is to wear a foolish grin or a sad frown in order to affect you, The Consumer’s, Purchasing Decision. Only this is free, so all I am is the gatekeeper of twenty minutes of your life.

But one of the key conceits behind Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist – which you may have previously have seen referred to as CrowsCrowsCrows, actually the name of William Pugh’s new studio – is that concept of gatekeeping, this time from the creator’s point of view.

Like sometime co-conspirator Davey Wreden’s The Beginner’s Guide before it, DLTTATTCEAWH is a response to The Stanley Parable, and particularly to the response to The Stanley Parable. This is the much more playful game than Wreden’s experimental, self-analytical offering, though, working hard for comedy above all else – and that’s not the only way in which it comes across as a condensed Stanley sequel.

OK. Got to be very careful. So little I can say. As in Stanley, you’re being directed around an odd maze of rooms full of odder technology, guided by a comic narrator. It involves a heist. There is indeed a tiger. But, unsurprisingly, something very different is going on.

The major superficial difference from Stanley is that the narrator is almost as bewildered as you this time around, and unlike Stanley’s semi-omniscient, sporadically cruel guide, here you get flustered bon homie with occasional bursts of panic.

If you’re only familiar with narrator Simon Amstell from his acidic Never Mind The Buzzcocks appearances, you might be a little surprised by his gentleness and likeability here, more like a manic Eddie Izzard than Popworld’s poisoned-tongued put-down master.

He’s absolutely the star of the show, propelling it along with an anxious energy which endorses the essential idea that there’s far more going on that you can see, but the performance is far more ramshackle than the clipped tones and pristine pith of the Stanley narrator. This is more about tone than outright gags, and the tone is ‘oh god everything’s going wrong aaaargh aaargh’.

That said, there are often moments when the fourth wall threatens to collapse because Amstell sounds too much like he’s giggling either at the script or his own words. I can’t know that’s the case for sure though, because the very nature of this game is to give the fourth wall a sound kicking

It’s charming, even infectious, but again like Stanley before it there’s that lingering sense that the creators are very, very proud of themselves indeed, which is going to rub some people up the wrong way. Bring in knowledge of Amstell’s sometime kick ’em while they’re down persona and maybe, just maybe, there is the faintest suggestion that we’re all saps for even playing this thing.

Then there’s the real nature of the game, which I can’t go into except to say that it would appear to be laughing at internet commentors’ notoriously wrong presumptions of how games are made, and particularly the Not A Game brigade’s response to Stanley and vaguely similar titles. This is what I was referring to when I was talking about the gatekeeping role of the creator early – what, exactly, is it that people think a game-maker is doing? And are they withholding the good stuff?

Again, similar ideas appear in Stanley, but this tries to be an outright farce, more about pratfalls than pointing out hypocrisy. The Wheatley sections of Portal 2 would not be an inaccurate reference in terms of tone – and, crucially, charm.

‘Farce’ really is the key word though – any time I suspected it was about to become acidic, it hammered the silliness button as hard as it could. I know I keep mentioning it in the context of The Stanley Parable, so here’s the summary without it: it’s funny, inventive short game about games and getting flustered.

But, of course, really it’s a heist game with tigers and grappling hooks in it. There are what I think are secrets too, which may or may not be a reason to return one more times.

Twenty minutes. No cost. You’ll laugh. Bargain.

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is out now on Steam and Itch.io.

26 Comments

  1. Serenegoose says:

    Very meta game. Appears to only launch 3 instances of itself, hang steam, not actually launch, and refuse to shut down when ordered to via the task manager.

    • Serenegoose says:

      It was a very good time once I got it working, though. I’d have paid a few monies for that.

  2. tenniseveryone says:

    At least crunch time for most developers doesn’t feature tigers. As far as I know.

  3. Rizlar says:

    Simon Amstell is indeed much funnier and more likeable outside of his poor man’s Mark Lamarr. This looks bizarre and farcical and absolutely worth playing.

    • Ginsoakedboy21 says:

      In this game, I would absolutely agree, he comes across very well. Which is a good thing, because as the poor mans Mark Lamarr, he is absolutely hateful.

  4. SamLR says:

    Just finished it for free and 20 min of my life completely worth the “investment”.

    The narrator conceit is starting to feel a little played out but this is just long enough to make it fun without over staying its welcome. Certainly lovely to find a farce game

  5. ribby says:

    One of those beta test sheets of paper could have been talking about The Beginner’s Guide. Anyone else think that?

  6. Vandelay says:

    Well, that was a lovely little piece of something. I hope CrowsCrowsCrows produce some more pieces like this. Would certainly be willing to pay a couple of quid for others (although I do agree somewhat with SamLR. I wasn’t tired by another narrator, but one or two more might get a bit much.)

  7. ribby says:

    Took me 35 minutes because I wasted a lot of time looking around and also made the narrator wait for me a lot.

  8. Shazbut says:

    How do you leave the Emerald room without getting spotted by the guards?

    • camerch says:

      You really have to game the system in the Emerald room. If throw a rock at a guard, they’ll walk directly on top of the rock, so you can guide them with a little rock trail until you’ve led him into a corner, and at that point you can simply blackjack him. DON’T hit the guard with the rock, though, or you’ll get found out.

      • Gus the Crocodile says:

        It’s easier just to use the grappling hook to bring the tiger over from the other platform. Once it kills the guard, you can get straight to the Orangery undetected. No good if you’re going for the nonlethal achievement though, I guess.

        • Vandelay says:

          I found the tiger a little underwhelming, after all the build up. He seemed to just disappear all by himself. Perhaps it was a bug, as there were a few strange scripting things going on to be honest, as if someone just forgot to flip a switch at the right time.

          Also, I was going into a lift and thought I could hear some faint chatting. I assumed it was another guard, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, as I had garroted them all in the area. There was a moment when I thought it was going to turn into a ghost story, but there never seemed to be any payoff.

          • Sui42 says:

            The secret room is the fucking best. If you keep using the time device in there, you get to this weird little prehistoric easter egg level.

          • SamLR says:

            If you follow the chanting (wear some headphones) you can find your way into the underground system as an alternate escape route. It’s a bit easier than the standard route although the third rail and occasional train from Euston keeps it interesting.

  9. Geebs says:

    Quick and to the pointless.

  10. alms says:

    Dunno, TSP felt Portal-ish too and this one swaps the narrator for something so close to Wheatley in both tone and function. So, in a way, it doesn’t really feel like a step forward.

    Before that starts sounding too negative, it was pretty nice. I played it 4 times in a row because it pressed my completionist buttons of course, and couldn’t get any of the other 4 achievements, much to my shame.

    It’s totally unforgivable, however, that writer Jack De Quidt wasn’t even mentioned in the full disclosure, clearly a sign of utter corruption on RPS’s part #IMQUITTINGTHISSITENOW

  11. Dare_Wreck says:

    Am I the only one that keeps getting his view locked in the tiger room such that I can’t use my mouse to look around and move (I think caused by pressing one of the wall buttons that you’re not supposed to press)? This makes the game unplayable, and it’s happened to me twice in that room now.

    Looks like I’m waiting for a patch before I’m going to try this again, since I’m getting frustrated having to restart from the beginning each time this happens. I know, I know – it’s a short game, but still… I don’t know if I’ll run into a similar bug later in the game and don’t want to waste my time unless I know I can complete it.

    • Sarfrin says:

      I didn’t get that, but I did click on the umbrella in the weather room and get dumped in some weird space with no way out.

  12. Unsheep says:

    While I would never actually buy a Pugh “game” they are always fun to watch a playthrough of.

  13. Shadrach says:

    Funny, I actually fell through the floor at one point early on, and I thought it might be a part of the game… I guess even very meta games about games have bugs. Or maybe it actually *is* part of the game?

  14. LionsPhil says:

    I do not regret spending my time on this, although I slightly regret the second playthrough that revealed just how thin the set was around this game. It doesn’t actually react all that much to how you act, e.g. how co-operative/petulantly un-cooperative you are.

    Nice ending, though.

    • Moogie says:

      The tapes kinda make up for it, though. Even if his improv can basically always be summed up as “Look at me, I’m Mr , here I go again!”

      • Moogie says:

        My kingdom for an edit button! Turns out using the arrow symbols will magically make words disappear and turn a sentence into nonsensical garbage.

  15. KenTWOu says:

    I love the Stanley Parable and I’m against that ‘Not A Game’ brigade. But they should stop making games like this one. These lifeless empty games without a single animated NPC in it. If they keep doing them they will never improve them. They will never make a believable autonomous NPC, design a game and write a story around him, improve their story telling methods. So we will keep getting these lifeless boring games like this one with the same trick which doesn’t surprise anyone anymore.