Unlike many other video games, Attentat 1942 was developed by Charles University and the Czech Academy of Science to portray individual perspectives of the Nazi occupation in the Czech lands. Instead of trying to make a profit, revenue from the game is invested to continue research into the field. Given the unique origins of Attentat 1942, it stands to reason that extra care was put into ensuring the historical accuracy of the game.
At the outset, you are trying to find out why your grandfather was arrested by the Gestapo during World War II shortly after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, ruler of the Nazi-occupied Czech Lands and leading architect of the Holocaust. Your investigation starts with a conversation with your grandmother, who comments that your grandfather never liked talking about the subject. As the plot unravels, you interview more people and interact with different environments.
Unlike other point-and-click games, all responses by your interviewees play out as a video with actors speaking Czech, giving it a very journalistic ambiance. Likewise, the questions you choose to ask unlock different leading questions, as well as other characters, mini-games, or encyclopedia entries, — the latter of which can be referred to at any time to read more about a key word or phrase. When your conversation ends, which can be timed as characters have their own lives to lead, you get a score card of sorts that highlights the type of information you gleaned based on your choices. If needed, you can spend tokens you earn during your investigation to replay an interview to find out key information.
Attentat 1942 incorporates uncommon gameplay and story elements. While the interviews take place with video, when the past is recounted, historical videos/pictures and animated comics take over. A variety of mini-games keeps the investigation fresh: one moment you might be ruffling through a collection of memorabilia and the next, reading between the lines of poetry. Despite the juxtaposition of some very distinct graphical choices, both the video interviews and illustrations are polished and work well in sequence. With compelling voice acting in Czech with English subtitles, the actors lend a personal touch to the interviews as their emotions shine through the language barrier. The rough sketch nature of the comics reflect the compressed memories of the interviewees, and I found the music atmospheric and pleasant to listen to as the story progressed.
Although only about three hours long, Attentat 1942 sensitively and respectfully captures the struggles of the survivors of war and their experiences. Multiple victim perspectives are explored and what appears to be hard-hearted or callous at first is often driven by the need to survive or protect. The humanization of this historical period allowed me to immerse myself in their experiences and contemplate the difficult choices they had to make.
With its use of video interviews, Attentat 1942 reminded me of Never Alone (Kisima In?itchu?a), a platformer based on on the traditional I๑upiaq tale, “Kunuuksaayuka,” that also includes unlockable video vignettes with I๑upiaq people about their culture. I think it’s beautiful when video games can respectfully take a subject and not only educate others about a topic but also immerse them in its message and emotions. Because I never learned much detail about the European side to World War II, Attentat 1942 provided me with a newfound understanding of what life was like then and how it impacted the survivors for years to come.
Despite (or because of) Attentat 1942’s short duration, there’s nary a slow moment. A small thread quickly expands to a tapestry of narratives that weaves around the protagonist’s grandfather. For those who love exploring history or simply resolving an investigation, Attentat 1942 provides a fascinating intersection between history and gameplay. Given that there’s still plenty of room for more games like this to emerge, I look forward to seeing what else the Czech Academy of Sciences concocts in the future.