Attentant 1942 is a heavy, highly stylized videogame that “tells the story of Nazi occupation of those who experienced it firsthand.” The full game is based on interviews with eight different survivors of the camps, and also features historical footage.
You control a man or woman who is visiting their elderly grandmother. An offhand comment about your grandmother’s antique radio brings up her recollections of the Gestapo taking her husband (your character’s grandfather) into custody on conspiracy charges. The story unfolds naturally from there, as your player (and you) begin to realize that there’s more to your grandfather than you had previously thought.
A standout piece of this game is that it varies its mechanics. Much of the “present-day” parts of the story simply require a listening ear, and the flashbacks to war-torn Germany have a visual style akin to comic books, speech bubbles and all. It would be easy to lose focus while listening or clicking through speech bubbles one after one if that’s all one did in this game, but the mechanics varied in interesting ways that keep the player actively responding.
The “present-day” story is live video that melds into the comic book-style flashbacks. You have the opportunity to guide events in the past and present with your choices as well. Good choices earn you coins and enable you to redo bad choices. There are also moments when you’re given a smattering of historical items to interact with as you see fit, and when you learn historical facts you begin filling out an encyclopedia that you can check at any time in the game. Later in the game there are also “atmospheric and challenging minigames,” though I did not make it to any.
The mystery of the part of the game I had the opportunity to play was also engaging. I won’t say anything more than that it has to do with the player character’s grandfather, and you must think carefully on how to draw information out of “your” grandmother. When you gain information, you see it in boxes in your notebook. You get to see the details, the significance of those details, and the specific information you still need in one easy to understand place.
The art was another appealing factor for me. It has a sketchy look which somehow makes the flashbacks feel more real and interesting to watch unfold than a neat, crisp drawing might. The gray scale also serves the dark story much better than a full color pallet probably would. Of course, it can also remind the player of the age of the stories that they’re interacting with.
Attentant 1942 won Game For Change’s 2018 award for Best Learning Game and a regular smorgasbord of awards from other organizations, the biggest being Czech Game of the Year from GALA, Games Learning Society Showcase, and European Conference on Game-Based Learning. It was obvious from the start that it was a well-researched game and the fact that there’s an item such as the encyclopedia makes it clear that much of its intention is to inform.
If you’re a fan of unique gameplay or this particular historical era, this is definitely a game to pick up, though it may be a game you would rather play through in privacy. Although I was engaged in the game demo, the heavy subject matter made me a bit antsy about playing it in a public space, where my ability to process everything might be compromised, being surrounded by people.