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The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: Dec. 17, 2015

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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3DS Review - 'The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind'

by Brian Dumlao on Jan. 4, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Baron Von Sottendorff is an aristocrat who believes he's living the good life in early 20th century Europe. What he doesn't know is that he's trapped in a reproduction of his mansion created by his own lunatic mind. It's up to you to help him escape his madness!

Of all of the platforms that host digital indie titles, the Nintendo ones receive the least recognition. Games like Shovel Knight, Steamworld Heist and Terraria are few and far between, with most of the offerings feeling like quick and dirty mobile game ports. It also doesn't help that most of these releases tend to come out with little to no fanfare. The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind is one such game, a title once thought to be canceled only to show up as a surprise on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. That usually spells trouble, but as it turns out, the title is actually a rather welcome surprise.

You start off with Baron Von Sottendorff asleep at a table in the main room of the mansion. When you wake him up, you realize that he's not altogether there mentally, a characteristic best exemplified by the voice in his head telling him not to do things that are unsafe. You soon discover that the baron is essentially trapped in his own house and he is the son of a toy tycoon. However, a series of incidents have left him in a state where he doesn't remember much of his past, causing him to trap himself in his house. Your goal is to set everything right, so he can leave with all of his memories discovered.

The basic goal of every stage is to escape the set of rooms. In order to do that, you have to find the key in one of the rooms and find the exit, which is located in a completely different room. You can also go find a puzzle piece that forms one of the main images that can help you remember some of the significant events in your past. Though those are your two main goals per stage, you can also collect photographs that are used as currency to unlock extras, such as concept art, musical pieces and video clips.

Though the baron is a slightly less nimble game character than one might expect, he does have a few abilities to help him escape each stage. Like any good puzzle platforming character, he can push and pull boxes in the four cardinal directions to help him reach higher ground, and he can flip switches to deactivate traps or use machinery to help him solves puzzles. He's pretty fragile, dying with one hit if he touches an enemy, but he can stomp a few of them to gain a jump boost or simply get rid of them. He also has a trumpet that can be used to make hidden platforms appear, though the range is short enough that not all of the platforms become visible if you blow it from any spot in a room. Curiously, though the baron is running all of the time, you can hold down a button to make him walk, and that somehow gives him more height and a farther distance when jumping.

The real hook of the game comes from the ability to shift rooms around. Much like a sliding puzzle, you can move any room around into an adjacent empty space to change the layout of the whole level. You'll quickly find that this is a necessary mechanic, as rooms are connected via doorways, both the normal and trap variety, and the doorways need to line up for travel to be possible. You'll spend a great deal of time in the main hub and in each individual level sliding rooms around to get everything from each stage.

The sliding mechanic is where the fun is, something you'll realize when you stumble on one of the timed levels that stress platforming over brain-teasing. The platforming mechanics aren't necessarily bad, but they don't produce the same amount of joy when compared to finding the correct room configuration to obtain that hard-to-reach key or puzzle piece. The game's difficulty is at the right level, where nothing is overly easy but you'll still run into tricky levels now and then. The only problem is that The Delusions of Von Sottendorff doesn't offer much incentive to continue once all 40 stages have been conquered. Unless you're aiming to unlock all of the extras by grabbing all of the photos, you won't have incentives like leaderboards or extras to beat your own level completion times.

With the exception of a few blurry textures for the paintings, the game looks great thanks to the wide use of color. The art style for the characters is good, and their movements are animated pretty fluidly. The frame rate is also solid, and even though the game is full of jagged lines, it looks fine in either 3-D or 2-D. The only issue you'll run into in this area deals with the camera. You can control both the angle and zoom level of the camera in any room, but both only go at fixed values, preventing the player from being able to fine-tune it to get a proper view of the surroundings. Further, the game doesn't perform transparencies when you're behind objects, so some of your movements will be based on faith; timed levels can be frustrating if you misjudge a jump due to your inability to see things properly.

The same amount of praise can be given to the audio portion. The music is brilliant stuff, as it wavers between haunting and happy without the tone shifting too dramatically. The instrumental tracks sound like they would fit a bigger budget title, so hearing it here is a pleasant surprise. The voice work is also good, as it provides a nice mix of pleasant memories and a good sense of the scatterbrained nature of the baron. Interestingly, that voice has a hollow sound to it, and it tends to drift between the left and right speakers. Intentional or not, the effect sounds much better when you're using headphones since the system's speakers make it sound much worse than it should.

A few camera and sound issues aside, The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind is a pretty enjoyable puzzle platforming romp. The use of the slide puzzles and standard puzzle platforming elements, like hitting the correct switches and moving boxes around, blends well together and creates an experience where every puzzle solution feels well earned. The story is told in a way to keep things intriguing, and when it is all said and done, it turns out to be a pretty good tale. It could use some polish in the presentation area, especially with a pretty uncooperative camera, and it could also offer something once the main levels are finished, but if you're looking for something a little different, you might want to check out this game.

Score: 7.0/10

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