Dr Livingstone, I Presume?
Dr Livingstone, I Presume? is an astonishingly beautiful escape room game based on historical characters and facts, yet the game’s narrative is given a slightly fictional interpretation, as envisioned by the creators.
You take the role of the journalist Henry Morton Stanley, who receives a letter from his friend, David Livingstone – a renowned explorer – urgently asking for his help. While historically Stanley embarks on an expedition to Africa in search of the famous missionary who had vanished several years earlier, here he is summoned to the professor’s house. Upon his arrival, he finds the rooms devoid of any presence and no trace of Dr. Livingstone.
The house is split into multiple sections / rooms that are initially locked. After a series of intricate puzzles, you will be able to find the key that opens the door to the next section, thus allowing you to get one step closer to solving the mystery of your friend’s disappearance. Aside from several minigames to solve, you will encounter a multitude of notes or letters that will unravel the background story bit by bit, like a jigsaw puzzle. These events, together with Stanley’s thoughts and opinions on the items he finds are recorded into a lovely illustrated, hand-written journal.
In terms of puzzles, there is a pretty wide range of difficulty. Some of them are easy to figure out and intuitive, others… not as much (especially towards the end of the game). For some you’ll require to take screenshots in order to reproduce a pattern, or to arrange various fragments in 3D, based on a top-down view. The majority of these are usually encountered in similar games (gears puzzle, rotating rings, pressing buttons in a certain order etc.) but there are a few new creative ideas, yet which require a bit more effort from your part. Although not directly explained, it’s usually pretty clear what you’re expected to do, but the game lets the players connect the dots themselves.
Apart from that, there’s an amazing hint system – the nicest I’ve seen so far in escape room / puzzle games. Similarly to Stanley’s journal, the hints take shape as a second journal, in which Stanley narrates how he solves the puzzles. Basically, it doesn’t tell you the solution upfront (although for the more difficult puzzles you also have drawings indicating the solutions), but it tries to explain in a manner that will lead you to the solution, giving you enough details to do so, yet letting you explore it yourself. The journal narrates all your actions up to that point, and the next paragraph of the hint book is revealed only after pressing a certain button, therefore if you want to read through it, there is no danger of being spoiled in advance.
The rooms of the house are pretty assorted and styled with different environments, even though they share a common pattern. There are a lot of African elements (paintings, objects, figurines, even puzzles) that are clearly inspired by Dr Livingstone’s life. Each room showcases perfectly one aspect of his personality: the explorer, the botanist, the physician, the cultured person that Dr Livingstone was. The rooms have plenty of furniture objects that you can interact with searching for items to pick up (by opening drawers and cabinets) and also some interesting Victorian contraptions that will offer you puzzles to solve (unsurprisingly).
The game is played solely from first perspective, using the mouse and keyboard. You are free to look around, but during puzzles, the camera zooms in and locks onto the puzzle area. There is an inventory that holds the items you collect (and which you will use later during puzzles); these can also be inspected, rotated and some of them will also require to be disassembled in order to obtain a new item.
There are 25 achievements to gain, most of them are awarded for story progression but there are also some missables ones. One of these has the very harsh requirement of triggering all Stanley’s lines, meaning inspecting absolutely everything possible (good luck finding the 1-2 lines you’re missing at the end of the game – it’s very much a “needle in the haystack” case), and the other one is a very silly achievement awarded for idling for 15 mins at a specific point in the game (while waiting for the clock to strike full hour, without being allowed to “cheat” the time by moving the clock hands) – failing to do so will require replaying the game from the start. I would personally lower the requirements for these two, because they only lead to frustration in otherwise a very pleasant and rather casual game, thus breaking the immersion.
Overall, Dr Livingstone, I Presume? is an excellent escape room game, with an exquisite presentation: beautiful environments, high quality voice-overs for all of Stanley’s lines (one of the best voice-overs I’ve encountered in a game, I must say), immersive and chill African-styled soundtrack and puzzles of increasing complexity. It takes between 2-4h to complete it with a guide (depending on how much you rely on the guide) and it might require secondary playthroughs if you missed the extremely-missable achievements during your first run.
So…. worth picking up, I presume? Yes, definitely!