#3 Calluna: The Adventures of Ole Bull

#3 Calluna: The Adventures of Ole Bull

October 9, 2021 0 By Owly

You can tell straight away when a game has been made with love. When passion and pride fill every corner of the screen. For me, this level of effort will always go a long way to help overlook the shortcomings of a game. Calluna has it’s issues, but you can feel as you progress through this adventure, just how much it means to the people that made it. For the two hours or so that I spent in this world, that effort and love was very much acknowledged and appreciated.

Calluna: The Adventures of Ole Bull is the first official release by Norwegian indie company Surrealist. They both developed and published the game, which depicts true historical events of Norwegian composer and violinist Ole Bull (1810-1880). Bull was a child prodigy and is listed as “one of the greatest performing artists of the 19th century”. He was Norway’s first superstar celebrity, composing more than seventy works. Although he eventually became incredibly famous and amassed a huge fortune, Ole Bull had a turbulent life. You will discover this over the course of the game as it covers four very different periods of his life – young, old, rich, and poor.

Your adventure begins in 1815, in Norway’s largest city at the time, Bergen. It is Ole Bull’s fifth birthday and you awake hoping the day has lots of surprises in store. The game is played in first-person and in a semi-open world. You can interact with inhabitants, run simple tasks, and there are plenty of collectibles to look out for. There will always be a few tasks during each playable period that you have to complete in order to progress to the next stage, but most are optional. And given this is a historical game, all locations are peppered with interesting and pertinent tidbits and factoids.

You will travel from Bergen to Paris to Cairo, experiencing the pivotal moments that shaped Ole Bull’s life and made him the musician that he was. You’ll lend a helping hand on the Bull’s family farm, hunt the water spirits and forest creatures from Scandinavian folklore, you’ll scare the locals by playing in the Giant’s Kettle, you’ll survive the brutal Cholera outbreak that ravaged Paris in 1832, and you’ll climb to the top of the largest pyramid on your 66th birthday, by order of King Oscar II. Ole Bull had a remarkable life with soaring highs and desperate lows and it was fascinating to journey through it all.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. In the opening five minutes I encountered a game-breaking bug. I clicked on a door and although it was locked, by clicking on it, I jumped through the door and disappeared behind the scenery. I was forced to close the game and start all over. The problem with that is there are lots of doors throughout the game which you have to use, and given that you can’t save when you like, each and every door was met with some trepidation. Also, the choice of where to focus the detail within the game seemed a little odd to me. The design of the NPC’s certainly had a charm to them – they reminded me of Playmobil – but they were so void of detail that often they just looked too far out of place. I remember being at a market stall looking back and forth between a lady and her cabbages, thinking to myself, why was the decision to give the cabbages so much detail and the lady so little? I just felt more of a compromise could have been struck. Plus, and I guess I’m nitpicking now, but the entire game is about a violinist, yet the soundtrack is all piano – that felt like a missed opportunity.

But as stated at the beginning, what this game is for and why it was made, more than makes up for a lady and her cabbages. I knew nothing of Ole Bull before playing Calluna, but I have now explored beautiful parts of the world and learned a lot along the way. For a debut release, this is a strong start. I love little adventures with an educational slant and I look forward to more from Surrealist.

Calluna is out now on Steam

You can follow Surrealist on twitter – @surrealistgames

Their website – Surrealist