That image puts me in mind of the luggage labels that people like George Bailey used to fantasize about sticking on their creaky brown suitcases as they battered their way around the world on a limited budget. Such romance in those images, where the world is abstracted into shards of pastel colours, the countryside always politely bisected by railway tracks and the seas always busy with those planes that can land on the water. Over the Alps borrows the visual style of luggage labels and travel posters as it leads you across the mountainous parts of Europe on the eve of World War 2, but its biggest hook lies with something that feels related but separate.
Stamps! The idea here is that you’re a secret agent dropped into elbowy intrigue on the continent as Hitler moves his pieces into position. Because this is a narrative adventure, the manner of the storytelling is as important as the story’s being told, and this particular tale unfolds in text on the postcards the agent sends home to his old chum Aubrey. Aubrey! What a perfect name for a pal back in Blighty. There is no way that Aubrey doesn’t drink a bit too much and eat a bit too much while lingering over luncheon at the club. I can’t necessarily see Aubrey’s face, but I can see the sag of his watch chain over his slight paunch, and I can sense the way his cheeks and nose go a bit ruddy when he’s had one too many. He is the perfect person for a spy to be writing to, telling a story of crosses and double-crosses, lucky escapes and unhappy accidents. Aubrey understands! Aubrey sends his best! Aubrey will buy everyone a round when the whole thing blows over.
I was quite a long way into the game and still pondering over the precise meanings of those stamps and their icons. The choices seem to flare them a little until they have the sort of roominess of interpretation you get in Tarot cards. Beyond these microdecisions the story leads you from one Alpine spot to the next, allowing you to choose routes now and then by selecting which curving trail you’d like. Meanwhile your agent steals cars or hops trains, settles down in a nice restaurant or meets mysterious ladies in remote cabins. Always the Swiss police are on your tail – aren’t they always? – and this adds a sense of additional urgency as the plot starts to take shape around you.