TOBOR by Cogoo
Humans have an almost preternatural habit of spying on each other, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed in the indie game sphere. Between the runaway success of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise or sleeper hits like Beholder, there’s practically a genre of virtually sitting in a chair and watching computer monitors.
TOBOR takes this premise and injects it into a bizarre, borderline unknowable sci-fi world, then tasks you with trying to make sense of it all. The results are pretty compelling.
All Secrets Known
Story-wise, TOBOR tosses you in the deep end and demands you swim. As tiny surveillance robot Tobor No.2b, you’re activated and called into duty to spy for the mysterious (and omnipresent) RA Corporation. Your mission? Use their surveillance system to gather intel on the seven important residents of the Undercroft, and report your findings back. Of course, that’s just the beginning.
Each day in the game consists of choosing one of the seven to follow and then clicking between 16 different monitors to track their movements. Important information revealed by them can be recorded, and environments can be scanned for additional intel. The day ends with a report to RA HQ and a grade for your performance.
The moment-to-moment gameplay of TOBOR is quite simple — almost to a fault, honestly — which lets its intricate story shine through. Your surveillance subjects are all uniquely bizarre and captivating to watch.
Whether it’s a news anchor who dresses like a clown or the Undercroft’s increasingly unhinged Queen, each provides a unique angle on the events surrounding your job.
Of course, the game wouldn’t be as compelling as it is if it were just listening to conversations. There are a number of ongoing events and mysteries in the Undercroft, and sometimes neglecting your duty will help you find a new clue. The game boasts 16 different endings to unlock, and it’s worth finding them all.
A Past and Future Secret
TOBOR’s production design also works to accentuate its mysterious story. Its grim yet colorful art resembles a dystopian comic book, and the score is suitably moody. There’s even solid voice acting present for certain characters.
However, some of these characters are played more for laughs than atmosphere. It’s not something I would normally complain about, but I did experience some tonal whiplash when it happened.
If I have another complaint about the game, it’s that I wish there was an in-game way to record info that you find. It’s not a bad thing for a game to make you reach for a pen and paper, but in a game about surveillance and recording information, it feels like an oversight rather than a design choice.
Gripes aside, TOBOR is an engaging story with plenty to chew on and discover, and I encourage everyone to peer through your screen into its world.
TOBOR is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for TOBOR below: