Tales From Off-Peak City Vol. 1 (2020)
Developer: Cosmo D
This being the 3rd, I believe Cosmo D now has the most titles in my review list of any one developer. Since Off-Peak, I've been hooked on to the very unique type of games that he creates, which I find difficult to categorize into a genre. I also am left wanting more from each game, as each consecutive game adds more to the story and world of Off-Peak. Tales of Off-Peak City, Vol. 1 is a adventure mystery game where you explore and investigate strange and dilapidated neighborhood while making and delivering pizzas to its residents.
In a very Off-Peak fashion, Tales From Off-Peak City starts with you on a boat, being briefed on your next assignment and the strange location you're being taken to. This time, you have to steal a very important saxophone from a Caetano, a musician who once played with Peter Norwood but now runs a pizza shop. If you played the prequel, The Norwood Suite, you'll understand who Norwood was and how big a deal it would have been to play with him. You're handed a "resume" with your name on it so you can apply for a job at Caetano's pizza shop. Once you arrive in the neighborhood, you come upon a truly surreal and unusual set of buildings. It does very much feel like the environments of Off-Peak and The Norwood Suite finally got to expand into a full, large world in this game. As you're on a mission to find out more about the saxophone, if you stand a decent distance away you can overhear conversations without being spotted. You learn much about the residents, their relationships, and their secrets from just listening to them without interjecting their conversations. Although you're just here for the saxophone, you end up finding out more more about the neighborhood and why it is in the state it's in.
There's two really fun aspects of Tales From Off-Peak City that made it very worthwhile for me. Firstly, making and delivering pizzas. Instead of an organized system or set of instructions on how to make a pizza, you get to throw anything and everything you want on there. You get more ingredients throughout your quest (including brains?!) so you can really experiment with different combinations. Making an absolute disaster pizza was really fun to do, and the game didn't really punish you for it. When you deliver the pizza, the characters are much nicer and willing to not only accept your disaster pizza, but tip you for it as well. Being the pizza delivery-person allows you to get to know the characters better and find out secrets about the town.
The second of my favorite things about this game is the photo-taking and filters. You get a camera early on in the game and start finding different photo filters throughout the town. I was shocked by the amount of customization in the camera mode, allowing you to make exposure super high or zoom in super far. Combining filters and these different settings allows you to get some really cool and unique shots, although it also can sometimes just come out as blurry nothingness. Also, the actual taking of pictures even gives you additional dialogue and interaction with characters, as they can respond either negatively or positively to being photographed.
The art and details in Tales From Off-Peak City do go somewhat above and beyond from the previous games, especially in the exterior buildings and street areas. However, I was just slightly underwhelmed by the overall soundtrack. Although it still has that familiar feel, I thought it would expand further upon the music of the previous titles. I still think Off-Peak had the best soundtrack, and I felt this game didn't have as strong of the jazzy and unpredictable feel that it did. However, the music is an integral part of how the game plays, too. When you make pizza, you also create a unique piece of music depending on your ingredient choice. There's certain ingredients that add really cool sounds, which encourages you not only to add more of that but to try to get more ingredients in your kitchen to mix it up.
I did expect the game to be a little longer, especially since The Norwood Suite took me a bit more time to complete. However, as it's only Vol. 1 of the series, it makes sense as part of a whole. I either missed something important or made a branching-narrative choice, because I ended up with about 9 achievements still incomplete when I finished the game. Off-Peak was short enough to play multiple times in different ways, but with Tales from Off-Peak City I'm a little reluctant to start the game all the way over and take a few different choices to see where that will take me. I would like to go back to it at some point in the future, though.
Tales From Off-Peak City, Vol. 1 is only the beginning of what appears to be a an series of more surreal games in the world of Cosmo D. It was an excellent combination of the bizarre environments of the previous games combined with more "game" aspects that made it more enjoyable and interactive. I'm excited to see what will come next and if we'll get more answers about the strange operations and more ways to interact with the world. If you're interested in exploring surreal worlds and games that tie in to music, I recommend Tales From Off-Peak City - but definitely start with the previous titles.
Tales From Off-Peak City, Vol. 1 is available on PC.
Played on: PC
Playtime: 3 hrs