For a game about communication, All the Hidden Corners sure feels convoluted. On the surface the project is a social puzzle adventure game with an offbeat aesthetic. This is the type of unusual premise that usually stands out on crowdfunding platforms. Yet, Odplot Production’s Trans-Siberian thriller is lagging well behind its $10,000 Kickstarter goal.
Fresh from pre-production, the developers came to Kickstarter to raise enough funds to develop the game full-time. They want to have an alpha version ready as early as January with the PC version launching in the Spring. It’s an ambitious development schedule, but not nearly as ambitious as their narrative.
All the Hidden Corners takes place in the late 1970s. A linguistics PhD student is traveling to Russia investigating claims of a last speaker of a language thought dead. Initially his mission is to meet with the speaker, but this immediately takes a backseat to far more bizarre matters.
Lost In Translation
Somehow, through a disorienting mishap, the student acquires a Soviet developed universal translator helmet. Equipped with this technology he promptly boards the wrong train headed for the depths of Siberia. On the train, the protagonist is joined by 12 other passengers. They all seem to share an unspoken secret, but not a language. Using the universal translator, the player is able to understand the passengers and attempt to parse out the peculiar situation they are in. This already seems like a lot to take in, some parts more relevant than others, but the narrative is only getting started.
The passengers have a healthy suspicion of the player character, which makes gaining their trust essential to solving the puzzles and progressing the story. As the student, players can’t communicate with the other passengers directly (different languages and all) so they have to rely on non-verbal communication to express themselves and gain crucial information. Choices can alter how much a passenger trusts the player and therefore how much information they share.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of intriguing ideas featured in All the Hidden Corners. The Kickstarter campaign just has them layered on so thickly that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different story beats. With the project still so early in development there doesn’t seem to be much to show off in terms of actual gameplay. It definitely feels like an instance where “show don’t tell” may have been a better campaign model.