Orten Was The Case Review

Orten Was The Case Review

When most people think of Groundhog Day time loops in video games, the haunting imagery and bittersweet existentialism of Majora’s Mask will likely be the first game to come to mind. The visual of the moon with a harrowing expression staring down toward Clock Town is a staple when gamers think of it. It has become synonymous with the premise of Bill Murray waking up to “I Got You Babe“, and there haven’t been games since that dare to reexplore it… until now.

Orten Was The Case leans heavily on a Groundhog Day time loop and presents a convoluted mystery that climaxes with an explosion that will annihilate the entire town of Orten. The only hope is an amnesiac street urchin named Ziggy; a very ugly protagonist who doesn’t wear shoes. Not only does Ziggy have only 12 real-world minutes to save his town and everyone in it, but he also has to figure out who he is.

Combining elements of platformers and adventure games, Orten Was The Case sets players loose in a semi-open district full of detail and a looming doomsday countdown. Get in touch with your inner dreg and come to one of the dankest towns full of colorful characters in this Orten Was The Case review!

Orten Was The Case
Developer: Woodhill Interactive
Woodhill Interactive
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: November 29, 2023
Price: $14.99 USD

When I was a child, I went over to a friend’s house. We only knew each other through our love of video games and he wanted to show me a PC game he was playing. When I got to his home, which was walking distance from mine, I was taken aback by his living conditions. He lived with his broke, unemployed mom and she didn’t do any housekeeping.

The house was a complete pigsty. There were lots of broken appliances, heaps of dirty laundry, and closed-off sections of the house due to hoarding. Food was left out for who knows how long and there was a pungent stink in the air that was a mix of cheap tobacco and acrid cat piss from the overflowing litter box. The game he wanted to show me was Bad Mojo, an adventure game where you played as a roach and you explored the world from a pest’s perspective.

This filthy gaming moment stuck with me. Never before had a game made me feel dirty and choke of desperation. Looking back, I feel bad for the kid since his parents failed him, but this palpable feeling of dank grunge came rushing back to me as I played Orten Was The Case.

The town of Otren is a dank and filthy-looking hovel. The trashy ramshackle aesthetic and off-kilter design brought back memories of a moldy sofa, slathered in condiments that had dried to a hard crust. The stench of uneaten french fries on the floor and dust bunnies the size of baseballs made the air so thick you could stand a fork in it. I was brought back to that time playing Bad Mojo with that kid from my childhood. This is the home of our protagonist, Ziggy, and the fate of everyone in Orten depends on him.

The story wastes no time in throwing players into the deep end. Where is Orten supposed to be? It seemingly has some inner-city European characteristics with some of the urban planning and modern white trash flourishes. On the other hand, there are some classical fantasy touches throughout. Hints of mystical elements like the presence of a giant, towering mushrooms, and goblin-like people exist in this world.

Everywhere you look, there are signs of decay. Cripples are drug dealers, the cops will shoot kids for trespassing, and graffiti everywhere, and there is no regard for safety or cleanliness. The main character and his friends are also hopelessly addicted to drugs. Orten Was The Case is an accurate depiction of modern urban life.

The problem Ziggy has is that he’s got amnesia and Orten is about to explode and he’s got about 12 real-life minutes. The core gameplay is akin to an adventure game. Players have direct control over him and he’s capable of jumping and he can even carry a few items. The main gimmick in Orten Was The Case is that every NPC has a schedule during the 12 minutes before doom and Ziggy can change fate by interacting with them or altering the course of events.

Doing one thing will cause something else to happen later in the 12 minutes. It always feels like all of Ziggy’s actions have a reaction or consequence. Sometimes, he can get killed if he isn’t prepared or makes a mistake. Dying resets the clock back to his crappy bedroom, but this time players will have learned something.

There are many questlines to follow and they all reset when the 12 minutes are up like in Majora’s Mask, but you aren’t meant to complete them all and in some cases, you’ll have to figure out how to make shortcuts in subsequent loops. To prevent monotony, Orten Was The Case does have a timeline table of events that gradually opens up where players can “fast travel” to various checkpoints that were completed from prior loops. This is one of the most forward-thinking additions to the Groundhog Day mechanic.

Having the right item for the right situation is a standard adventure game gimmick that is as old as the genre itself, but where Orten Was The Case does things differently is incorporating platforming and climbing into the mix. Ziggy also has HP and is a skinny-fat wimp with no shoes so he takes fall damage easily and will die from falling from terminal velocity height. The problem with all of this is the game has poor 3D spatial awareness.

Orten Was The Case relies on hand-drawn illustrations for the background graphics and while they are suitably grungy and erratic in their deliberately amateurish design, they don’t make it easy to traverse. This was a great and novel idea, but the execution and decision to implement 3D platforming was a mistake.

There are lots of sequences where doing a jump incorrectly is due to how odd the space is depicted in Orten Was The Case. The art style is intentionally wobbly and unhinged, so most of the time the platforms don’t feel like they align properly. Worse yet, the art is fairly low rez on Switch, and the character character models’ sharpness further disconnects the assets.

It never feels like Ziggy and the townspeople are cohesive to the world. They don’t feel grounded or attached to the floor because of the flatness of the background art and the lack of image quality. There is no effort at establishing any depth; no parallax foreground elements and no multiplane illusion to give the impression of a three-dimensional world.

Orten Was The Case does have its merits as an adventure game, but when the time comes when Ziggy has to fight, the game is at its lowest. He can’t do much apart from limply swinging a bat and dodge-rolling away in a cold panic. The bosses are also very slow and have overly animated attacks that are easy to avoid.

Thankfully there are barely more than a handful of physical confrontations, but the few in the game do hinge on which ending will be earned and most are optional. The checkpoint system for quickly jumping to various points in the day with previously completed goals does make getting the other endings less tedious and when relying on it, expect Orten Was The Case to last about a respectable 10 hours.

Orten Was The Case is a very novel and creative take on the adventure game genre that is bolstered by a unique art style that probably will alienate most gamers. The visuals are intentionally ugly to emphasize the ugliness of urban inner-city life and that might be a bit much to take in for general audiences. The cast is all grotesque and most of them are unlikeable due to some glaring character flaws, but this is also a large aspect of the game’s atmosphere.

The town of Orten is a character in itself. It has a thought-out history and everything in it feels like it has a purpose. The problems with Orten Was The Case is how it executes some of its 2D assets, the implementation of the 3D platforming, and the botched attempt at melee. The version on Switch is especially a little more rugged-looking than intended, but any adventure game fan who thinks they can deal with spotty playability will find there is a lot to appreciate with its deep Groundhog Day loop scenario.

Orten Was The Case was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Woodhill Interactive. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Orten Was The Case is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.


The Verdict: 6

The Good

  • Intelligently designed Groundhog Day loop system
  • Visually striking - there is no game out there that looks like this
  • Helpful timeline system for quantum leaping to any checkpoint reached
  • Cleverly designed puzzles
  • Very grungy and filthy atmosphere that feels real

The Bad

  • Background art is pretty low rez on Switch
  • Spatial awareness and lack of depth makes navigation and exploration trickier than it should
  • Ziggy is hopeless in a scrap
  • The art direction won't be for everyone


A youth destined for damnation.

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