Generally, the game-creation process begins with a mechanic. There tends to be an input method that developers want to explore, or maybe even a storyline that they think will be particularly powerful in an interactive setting. There’s usually a central theme grounded in a genre like “first-person shooter” or “isometric roguelike,” and the game comes together within this framework, its details and proper nouns crystalizing along the way.
In the case of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, Simogo started with the name.
“There wasn't a single a-ha moment,” Simogo co-founder Simon Flesser told Engadget. “We had the title which we really liked, and from there we have been trying to figure out what laser eyes are.”
Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is the ninth major game from Simogo, the acclaimed Swedish studio that’s responsible for Device 6, Year Walk and Sayonara Wild Hearts. Simogo revealed Lorelei in June 2022 with a noir-inspired trailer promising a murder mystery, a maze of deceptions and a palace of memories. A smartly dressed woman moves languidly behind the trailer’s text, eyes glowing red as she navigates the monochromatic grounds of a large estate.
Simogo didn’t divulge a ton of detail about Lorelei at its debut, and it hasn’t provided much clarity in the year since. The game’s latest trailer includes the years 1847, 1963 and 2014, and it hints at international espionage with a paranormal twist, emphasizing the player’s ability to recognize patterns and solve puzzles. “Do you remember the maze?” the trailer asks, over and over again.
So, here are some basic details about Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, directly from Flesser:
It’s a third-person puzzle adventure.
There are nearly 150 puzzles to solve.
It’s coming to PC and Switch.
It’s set in the “surreal memory of a house.”
Lorelei and the Laser Eyes plays with cameras in a 3D space, drawing from the best ideas in Sayonara Wild Hearts with shifting mechanics and perspectives. It feels mysterious because, well, that’s what it is.
“The project has been transformative to make, which reflects in its themes,” Flesser said. “It's not a singular concept, it's rather more of a collection of ideas over a long time. Thematically, there are a lot of ideas about stories within stories, stories reflecting each other, memories, dreams and parallel events and worlds.”
Players will interact with objects including cameras, computers and locks; they’ll read passages from books and magazines; they’ll play games within games, according to Flesser.
“We're trying to instill a feeling of things not being what they seem,” he said. “Not dread, but a constant feeling of ambivalence, a story in which there is no good or evil. And a sense of absurdity — finding yourself in a strange situation in which you will eventually start questioning what is happening and what is not.”
Simogo wants to mess with your mind, basically. This is kind of the studio’s jam — its previous games like Year Walk, The Sailor’s Dream and Device 6 successfully toyed with surrealism and paranormal events.
“I think there is something interesting that happens when you start blending realities,” Flesser said. “When [a piece of] media starts talking about our reality as if it is a story within its reality, it ends up becoming more real somehow. It creeps into your head in a very specific way. You become the story.”
There’s no release date for Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, but it’s being published by Annapurna Interactive and it's due out in 2024 on PC and Switch. The game’s second trailer landed last week: At the end, a series of maze blocks flash across the screen, positioned as if they’re words in a sentence. It feels like a challenge, or maybe an invitation, to solve one of Lorelei’s puzzles. It feels like the game has already begun.
At least one person on Steam claims they’ve translated the maze blocks into a complete thought, and their result seems to fit appropriately (linked here, for those curious). I asked Flesser for a correct translation of the mystery blocks and he didn’t provide one. Instead, he said simply, “Everything is a puzzle.”