With little fanfare and much mystery, Britain-based indie development group Crows Crows Crows released their premier title this past December, and it’s as wonderfully silly as its title suggests.
Fans will recognize Langeskov director William Pugh’s name as the co-creator of the philosophic hit The Stanley Parable (2011), and in many ways Dr. Langeskov acts as a younger sibling to Stanley. Both games explore the relationship between the player and the game’s narrator, as well as pushing the boundaries of what behavior is expected from players. Where Stanley quickly became an object of indie gaming affection that won multiple awards, Langeskov’s narrator comments wryly, “I can see BAFTA sniffing all over this.”
It is difficult to describe the plot of Dr. Langeskov without spoiling some of its charm. According to its Steam description, Langeskov is a free-to-play exploration heist game that lasts approximately 20 minutes. However, halfway through this description, the writer appears to have reached a breakdown and balks, “Oh god, I can’t do this anymore, i’m [sic] joining the strike.” This strike, players will find, has made quite an impact on the production of the game. Players are promised the chance to put themselves in the shoes of master thieves sneaking into a mansion on a stormy night, but before any of this can happen, they’ll need to sort a few things out with management first. After some brief initial confusion, Langeskov’s frazzled narrator (voiced by comedian Simon Amstell) comes to the player’s aid to sort out how to keep the game running despite the issues with the strike. He’s overworked and understaffed, but he’s still giving it his best go. Amstell’s performance is a highlight, elevating what could have been a forgettable free title into something I have already revisited multiple times since downloading. One could feasibly breeze through Langeskov in under fifteen minutes, but the more one explores Langeskov’s little world, the richer and more humorous Amstell’s character becomes.
While The Stanley Parable was a more serious examination into video game philosophy, Dr. Langeskov treats the same subject matter with a lighthearted attitude. In the same way that Stanley used humor to make a serious point, Langeskov holds a straight face that leads to charmingly absurd punchlines. There may or may not be pretzels hidden throughout the game for players to find, your choice in which grappling hook to use might have tremendous impact on the story, and, in the words of the narrator, the sets are “phenomenally cheap.” Also, thanks to the strike, there might be a tiger wandering loose in the game. Or maybe not. The only thing certain in Dr. Langeskov is the same unexpected, dry sense of humor that characterized The Stanley Parable.
Pugh seems to know that Dr. Langeskov is a retread of subject matter he has already explored, but he doesn’t let this dampen Crows Crows Crows’ sterling debut into the indie gaming market. Dr. Langeskov shrugs blithely at the success of its predecessor and makes its own mark as the splashy first steps of what I predict will be a deservingly-successful indie developer. It’s currently free to play on Steam and lasts almost as long as its title, making Dr. Langeskov an unmissable download for fans of indie gaming.