Last year I played a small indie game called Paradise Killer and it quickly jumped into my favourite games of that year. It was one of those games that came out of nowhere and really took me by surprise. Cosmic Top Secret had the potential to be this years Paradise Killer, but sadly came a little short, despite it being one of the most interesting and unique games I’ve played in quite a while.
It’s a difficult one to explain. Presented in cardboard cut out form, Cosmic Top Secret follows T, who wants to learn more about her parents involvement as Danish Intelligence during the Cold War. The twist being that it’s real. T (Trine Laier) is the creator of the game and her parents really did work as Danish Intelligence and this whole game is her uncovering what exactly they got up to with actual audio interviews and video footage. It’s a fascinating game as you roll around the world (as a cardboard Katamari if you will), solving puzzles, talking to real people and just learning about this fascinating life her parents have led.
The game actually had to be cleared by Danish Intelligence before release just in case it revealed any information they didn’t want out in the public, during some moments of the game audio and text is sometimes redacted. Getting between these audio and video segments there is some gameplay to sink your teeth into. It is very basic and for the most part involves going from place to place, collecting items, solving simple puzzles and just talking to everyone you meet. It’s this section of the game that is probably the weakest and really prevents Cosmic Top Secret from being essential.
Controlling T is a nightmare. Rolling around in ball form, one minute controls are hyper sensitive, the next you’re unable to climb up the smallest incline. Made even more annoying during later sections when you’re asked to navigate tiny ledges. There’s no “death” in the game so it’s not like it takes away any progress, but that doesn’t stop it being infuriating. Making matters worse is when new mechanics are introduced later. Grenade throwing is used with the triggers, but requires you to position yourself in such a way otherwise you’ll miss by miles, it just doesn’t feel natural. Then there’s the paper airplane you turn into. Fine at first, until I wanted to land and then kept getting caught in gusts of air that took me away from where I wanted to be. Such a shame that these things couldn’t be ironed out pre-release.
Yet, despite all these issues I have. I didn’t turn it off out of sheer frustration. The story of T, her parents and co-workers were fascinating to me. The way audio has been captured on tape recorders giving everything such a real and natural feeling, the many mementos from history you collect, it’s an excellent document of a time period I previously had little knowledge of. So, despite my complaints I would recommend people giving Cosmic Top Secret a go. There’s really nothing like it out there.