WWII. What a sensitive topic to discuss in a game review.
Growing up in Plymouth, the war was always held up as a stark memory. The city is littered with memorials. Some overt such as the memorial on Plymouth Hoe. Some however are much more covert. My great Grandmother lived in a house bombed during the war, and you could see the difference in house design compared to the house next to it. My school had an air raid shelter under the playground. A massive false wall was constructed down the coast. It was everywhere.
But playing this game reminds me of Solly Irving (1930-2017.) At 9, Solly had to survive the invasion of the German Army and the subsequent invasion of the Russian Army. He spoke candidly to my year at school about running for his life from armed soldiers; begging for his life in concentration camps; losing his sister and finally liberation and travelling to Britain. His way of discussing, as though he was simply recollecting a trip to the shops, was haunting.
Attentat 1942 passes around most of that darkness, but nevertheless it stick within your mind as it is very open that these stories are true and real. It focuses much less on the Holocaust as a target however. A simple inquiry about a radio while you help your grandma move house leads you to delve into a mystery about your Grandpa’s involvement with the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi general who was assassinated in Czechoslovakia and whose death the Nazi’s dealt swift retribution for.
The game jumps between 2001 and 1942. In 2001, you run through the point-and-click style adventure. You will interview people, collect evidence and slowly piece together your Grandpa’s involvement. When you reach critical junctures in your research you are thrown back to 1942, playing the story of several key characters and the roles they all played in Heydrich’s assassination.
The game is very thin in the sense that there is little else to it. But the mystery is compelling, and I enjoyed the simple-start-to-complex-finish of the story. Everything is done with polish and style. The real actors play their parts well and realistically: Grandma is stern and annoyed when you ask for stuff from her, and everyone acts like the situation is one of seriousness even if they speak to you like a parent to a child. The memories are well-drawn, and the comic-book style of transition works well to depict them.
But it’s hard to tell if I enjoyed the experience as a whole. It is one that while treated well and containing no graphical or gameplay failures is dipped in darkness. But that is no fault of its own. It deals with difficult material, and having a simple adventure over a more bounding romp where your Grandfather mows down Nazis seemed a sensible step (although those games exist aplenty.)
Would I take back the experience? No. ‘Those who forget history are condemned to complete it’ was adorned on my wall and in times where turbulence is becoming a way of life people would do well to remember the butterfly effect one choice can have. As an adventure game you’ll find an interesting and deep traversal through a defining moment in Czech history. But you’ll also find a rather humanising lesson in history, one which I’m glad I took part in.