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This Roguelite Adventure Game Is Taunting Me To Understand It, And I Won't Back Down

My favorite game at GDC 2024 is Blue Prince, an atmospheric roguelite with an intriguing narrative-driven mystery at its core.


As I entered the fifth room in my preview of Blue Prince, I knew I was doomed. I didn't know all that much about the narrative-driven puzzle game going into it, but right around the moment I realized I was actually playing a roguelite, I was hooked. This game has a decent chance of becoming my whole personality for a few days when it comes out.

Blue Prince lays the groundwork for its mystery in its first few minutes. You're the heir to your recently deceased great-uncle's fortune and lavish estate but only if you discover the supposed 46th room in the notably only-45-room mansion where he once lived. You're told you can't stay in the mansion overnight or take items out of it. As a final direction, you're warned that the layout of the mansion beyond the initial foyer will change every day.

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After stepping into the foyer, you have a choice of going through a door on the left, a door on the right, or a door straight ahead. When you do, you're offered a choice of three random rooms that a door can lead to. Some rooms promise keys that can be used to unlock locked doors or chests. Others hide currency that can be spent on items that inform the metroidvania-like exploration or food to energize you so that you can push yourself further. Occasionally, they just help you keep moving forward.

You progress in this way door-by-door, room-by-room until you either run out of energy and can't continue or simply can't progress any further (maybe the only doors left to you are locked and you have no keys, or you accidentally built the mansion in a way where every direction leads to a dead end). At that point, you call it quits for the day, lose all the currency and items you've collected, and return to your tent outside. When you wake up, you head back into the foyer and start again.

Digging into roguelite mechanics, there are ways to make some progress in the game. On my first incursion through the mansion, I found a room that allowed me to store a single item. Every time I managed to find that room again on subsequent runs, the item was still stored there and I could exchange it if I wanted to save something else. A room on my second run "froze" my currency, letting me keep my money for the third run. There are mysteries and unlocks to find outside the mansion as well. I found an apple orchard locked behind a gate with a combination lock and was told that the combination was somewhere in the mansion. If I found it, I'd unlock the orchard and have more energy each day, letting me explore further into the mansion.

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Blue Prince is a remarkably simple game to play. You explore the 3D space of each room in first-person, methodically exploring the mansion, picking up and reading notes, and scouring for narrative breadcrumbs that feed into the mystery of the mansion, your great-uncle's life before his death, and how it's possible to find the 46th square in the mansion's 9x5 grid-based map. I know how to do math! Nine times five is only 45! HOW CAN THERE BE A 46th ROOM?

During my preview, most of the answers I got for these kinds of questions were a coy smile or a mirthful chuckle from developers or PR, and that sentiment seems to bleed into the game. Blue Prince has very little exposition outside its opening monologue set-up, leaving the player to their own devices as they learn how the systems work and discover how to solve its mystery. Playing the game felt a lot like trying The Forgotten City or Outer Wilds for the first time. I know what the goal is. I know how all the mechanics work. I just haven't yet figured out how to use those mechanics to bend the puzzle-like world to my will to get to said goal. But I will!

Blue Prince is set to launch for PC.

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