Over the Alps review – a joyous wartime romp across the mountains

Feb
04

Over the Alps review – a joyous wartime romp across the mountains

Some games have you from the start screen. So it is with Over the Alps, a narrative adventure from a team that’s had experience at both Inkle and Failbetter, so knows quite a bit about this narrative adventure stuff by now. Anyway, the start screen: a stylised plane coasts over a stylised mountain range. At the bottom of the image, the legend: Alpine Adventure. Alpine Adventure! Yes please!

That image puts me in mind of the luggage labels that people like George Bailey used to fantasize about sticking on their creaky brown suitcases as they battered their way around the world on a limited budget. Such romance in those images, where the world is abstracted into shards of pastel colours, the countryside always politely bisected by railway tracks and the seas always busy with those planes that can land on the water. Over the Alps borrows the visual style of luggage labels and travel posters as it leads you across the mountainous parts of Europe on the eve of World War 2, but its biggest hook lies with something that feels related but separate.

Stamps! The idea here is that you’re a secret agent dropped into elbowy intrigue on the continent as Hitler moves his pieces into position. Because this is a narrative adventure, the manner of the storytelling is as important as the story’s being told, and this particular tale unfolds in text on the postcards the agent sends home to his old chum Aubrey. Aubrey! What a perfect name for a pal back in Blighty. There is no way that Aubrey doesn’t drink a bit too much and eat a bit too much while lingering over luncheon at the club. I can’t necessarily see Aubrey’s face, but I can see the sag of his watch chain over his slight paunch, and I can sense the way his cheeks and nose go a bit ruddy when he’s had one too many. He is the perfect person for a spy to be writing to, telling a story of crosses and double-crosses, lucky escapes and unhappy accidents. Aubrey understands! Aubrey sends his best! Aubrey will buy everyone a round when the whole thing blows over.

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