TUCSON, Ariz. — "Disco Elysium" sinks you into a hardscrabble gumshoe environment with little hand-holding or even encouragement. Left to go it alone in a harsh world, you've got to bootstrap your way through a punishing land of hard knocks.
Playing as a hard-drinking, drug-using detective who has lost his memory, a disapproving, straitlaced partner joins you as you float through a war-torn environment plagued by apathy, irony, and regret.
And what a gloriously painful and blackly humorous journey it is.
The visuals are meant to replicate the look and feel of an oil painting, lending a timeless, film noir-style sensibility to the proceedings.
The 2019 detective RPG, hauled in a slew of game of the year awards, re-emerged in 2020 in an expanded "Final Cut" form, which adds a new area with accompanying characters and quests, voice acting for all characters, and a "Hardcore" difficulty mode.
After gracing the Xbox and PlayStation earlier this year, the game has finally made it to the Switch.
The lumbering, somewhat unwieldy saga — originally meant for PC — puts a strain on the Switch's meager-by-comparison hardware, leading to long loading times and sluggish performance.
The novelty of having the game in portable mode goes a long way to making the Switch a viable platform for the game. The touch screen makes it quick and easy to interact with characters and items without having to babysit your character's path with the left stick.
The most minor details tend to become glaringly significant. The clothing you choose can grant you special abilities — and liabilities — that vastly change your experience. Simulated dice rolls determine your fate, drawing on the game's tabletop origins.
"Disco Elysium" is a vast, sprawling experience that can quickly suck dozens of hours of our attention without much remarkable progress toward the main objectives. That's by design. The game is meant to be more of an experience than an A to B to C storyline.
The situations you bring upon yourself and happen upon by chance have a way of prioritizing the mainline story.
Intricacies and nuances abound. Particularly fascinating is the Thought Cabinet, which works something like a tech tree in a strategy game.
As you ruminate on concepts, you explore psychological avenues that can unlock abilities or tumble down the rabbit hole into negative consequences. The permutations of what becomes possible when you try out different combinations lead to vastly different gameplay experiences.
The dark, troubling, and illuminating memories you accumulate wash over you like a contact high. Or a hangover. "Disco Elysium" has a way of gripping you and never letting go.
The publisher provided a review code.