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2014-07-23

Bernd und das Rätsel um Unteralterbach Review

Title: Bernd und das Rätsel um Unteralterbach
Alias: Bernd and the Mystery of Unteralterbach, ベルントとウンターアルターバッハの謎
Release date: 2013-10-27
English release date: 2014-06-22
Developer: BerndSoft
English publisher: BerndSoft

Wow... this is something unusual - an Original German Language Visual Novel, or OGLVN for short. That's something I haven't reviewed before. Hell, that's something I haven't played before.

"Unteralterbach" is a political and social satire, it's also the game where you fuck children... and it's one of the best Western VNs I have ever played. The origins of the game are not that different from those of another well known occidental VN - "Katawa Shoujo", i.e. it was conceived on a German imageboard Krautchan. Even the very title reflects its origins - the game's protagonist is named Bernd, where Bernd is a Krautchan equivalent of Anonymous. Hmm... I would be interested in finding out how long the game was in production; it should have been at least a couple of years.
You ain't even trying to eradicate anything, colleague Hubert.
As it has been already mentioned the protagonist of our game is one Bernd Lauert. He is the most cliche twenty-something weeaboo basement-dwelling NEET otaku, which is exactly what the game wants to portray. Bernd lives in his mother's basement and spends his days wanking to anime waifus. One day the labour exchange office finally manages to find Lauert a job which he, a person with no qualifications, would be able to do. One small catch - he has to move to a small Bavarian village Unteralterbach, where he will take his position at the "Federal Office for the Execution of the Oktoberfest". It's just that nobody took their time to inform poor Herr Lauert that it's just a front for BKA (German Federal Police), or more specifically Cybercrime division SECS unit. Take a wild guess at what is the specialty of the said unit. Yeah, it's responsible for catching pedophiles. Hilariousness ensues...

Frankly, even completely finishing the game I still have no idea if Bernd is a genius or a complete moron. Sometimes it is impossible to tell if he is playing his role straight or snarking at everyone... including the reader. Take the example, where upon seeing his colleague watching porn with a small hill of wet tissues around him, Bernd laments that horrible sights must have brought him to tears. And it's not even the funniest example. Of course, there are many different ways that you can play Bernd. The game has a myriad of choices and it allows you to make Lauert an irresponsible lazy bum, which will result in bad ends; alternatively he can be shaped into a paragon pedophile hunter with a MILF fetish, which will result in bad ends... again. Or you can just go the loli way and earn your happy ending. Whichever road you choose, Bernd is an awesome bumbling protagonist, who always says the wrong thing and ends up with his own foot in his mouth every time he has to explain some unfortunate situation. It's all quite hilarious and somehow never gets tiring.
Apparently the quickest way to disperse a torches & pitchforks mob is to mention you're a Jew.
Either way, "Unteralterbach" has balls, or maybe its creators have balls. As I have already mentioned it's a political satire. Bernd's BKA office is staffed with pedophiles and the village itself is portrayed as chock full of horrible parodies of child porn crusaders - most of them based on real existing German politicians and public figures. The game is made to be as politically incorrect as possible, frequently going over the top. It doesn't take long for Bern to figure that majority of German child porn is made in Unteralterbach and embark on a mission to eradicate it (or not). During that journey he meets personages like the head anti-porn crusader Steffi von Schlechtenthal and her husband Karl-Gustav. The character disguises are paper thin as Steffi gushes about her own Bismarckian stature and Karl-Gustav practises his many names in front of a mirror, so as not to forget them. Another character who will be familiar to even non-Germans, is actor Til Schweiger, appearing here as Til Geiger and advertising his movie "Far Cry" from Uwe Boll. However, when I mentioned balls, I didn't really have the political caricatures in mind. What I meant was that the game actually portrays the prophet Muhammad... and allows you to kill him. How's that for a change?
Don't forget your Tinfoil Hat, Bernd.
All this notwithstanding, you don't actually need to be familiar with with German politics in order to enjoy the game. I didn't recognize anyone else and it didn't diminish my satisfaction. After all, the point of this game is to basically hammer an anvilicious point home: children are not weak, stupid and innocent and don't need the protection from big bad world out there. All the "Save the Children" crusaders are shown as unreasonable broken people with deep seated phobias and complexes. The very first such person you meet actually loves fucking horses. *sigh* Yes, this VN is as subtle as a 12-gauge shotgun blast to the head.

Basically there are two ways you can play the game: you can take it at face value as a satire if you buy into the philosophy the game tries to shove down your throat, or you can just relax and let the insanity take you for a wild ride without thinking too much. I'm a bit of a first case, but mostly the second one. While I think that feminism and "Save the Children" movement have long since abandoned common sense and lost sight of the original goal, the game is just much more enjoyable as an insane eroge. Rephrasing the Victorian saying: "Lie back and think of lolis".
A feminist with a nazi-like patch on the hand. Can it be? It's a... feminazi!
So, let's go back on track and think about this objectively. There are two main routes in "Unteralterbach": MILF and loli. However all the MILFs are ugly pigs and you can only acquire bad ends following that path (though I must admit that Steffi has expensive boobs *wink wink*). There is only one true ending in the game, but you can have sex with six main lolis (it's no wonder that Pedobear, sorry I meant Pedro Behr, makes a guest appearance). Unlike many of Japanese games these lolis are not robots, vampires, anthropomorphic books or totally over 18. They are actual children aged 8-9, but they are definitely no innocents that need protection from adults. If anything it's the other way around. After all child porn is porn shot FOR children.

Henrike Fuchs is a twintail beauty with a daddy complex. It's a shame that her daddy is an upstanding citizen and wouldn't touch her in funny places. That means Henrike has to take matters into her own two hands. It's interesting that devs gave Henrike a necklace which changes forms based on her mood - it's a cross when she is happy, but just anger her and it turns into a swastika.
Henrike knows exactly what love is.
Annemarie Rieter is a budding poet and her tongue twisting alliterations are seriously great... and dirty as hell. She wouldn't be able to show her talent in any polite company. No matter - she will show it to you. Just don't try to discourage her, as young poets can be so sensitive.

Maja Grünzeug is from Netherlands, so it is kind of obvious that she's a big fan of the traditional Dutch vegetable. Remember kids: drugs are awesome... and so is Maja.

Nele Büttner is a chubby baker's daughter. She is a diligent girl who expects to take over her mother's bakery when she grows up. She also has some radical ideas about cream and pastry glazing.
What a sweeeeet scene.
Kim Hartmann is a tech-savvy computer expert and a walking Linux advertisement. However what gets her real hot and bothered is... trolling. So sharpen your tongue for Kim expects you to troll for her :-)

Laura Belanova is a student from Ukraine and a typical Eastern European. She ditches school, swears a lot, moonlights as a dominatrix and lives in a huge Villa Lolistein. OK, maybe not so typical, after all. Just don't make her cry.
What tits?
Of course these girls are not the only ones you can boink. There is Emily, the daughter of Til Geiger, and the twins of Baroness Steffi, but you just have to experience them yourself.

"Unteralterbach" is not an easy game and it has a shitload of bad ends to hinder you, but I managed not only to fully complete the game, but I also wrote a walkthrough for those who are stuck. I must compliment a game structure, because it is not just a simple VN, but in the later stages includes map movement, point'n'click sequences and social boss battles. Moreover, these sequences are very well executed and do not feel like tacky gimmicks (I'm lucking at you "Kara no Shoujo"). Not to mention that the VN is very long for a Western effort and easily took over 10 hours for me to finish.
There is even a Phoenix Wright type minigame.
Graphically the game looks great. It eschews the horrible wapanese art that infests majority of OELVNs out there and manages to stand on its own. The backgrounds are crisp drawings instead of filtered photos, as it is frequently encountered. Sprites are lively and very expressive with many different positions and facial expressions. Moreover, CGs of all varieties are almost professional looking. While the game is not voiced (probably for the better), the soundtrack is very memorable and sound effects are impressive.

"Unteralterbach" is obviously an eroge (though you can technically turn all the underage sex scenes off) and as such we should take the look at the H-scenes. I'll be frank - it has been a long time since I have seen sex scenes so hot. They are not overlong and do not become boring like many Japanese ones do. However, the main thing that impressed me was the absence of the typical inane "ahh" "ohh" sounds. Rather Bernd and his chosen paramour engage in witty banter during sex, which raises the erotic factor ten times. It helps that the graphics are great and some scenes even contain simple animations to liven them (e.g. Maja's scene).
What was it I said about political correctness...?
Nevertheless, let's not forget that the original language of this game was German. It's no wonder that after the trainwreck that was "Svia's" translation I was a bit weary to read this VN. Never fear though, if I wasn't aware of the fact I would have no idea that this was not an original English language release. The translation is very professional, idiomatic and doesn't sound stilted at all. Even the grammar errors are very few and far between.

In the end, "Unteralterbach" is a complete insane satire about child porn, moralfags and probably pizza. Whether you take it at face value or read it as a fantasy eroge, you will find something interesting here. Just check your personal sensibilities at the door - they have no place in the village of Underagecreek. 

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official German site
Walkthrough for the game

Final Verdict: 82%

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous24/7/14 20:07

    I loved it, the VN was awesome. By the way, pretty good review. xD

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  2. Anonymous3/8/14 05:39

    A century from now when someone is teaching a university course on eroge as a literary/art form, I hope this game is one of the examples they use. I am 100% serious.

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  3. Anonymous7/12/14 03:30

    Thank you for putting into words everything I feel about this VN! I recently finished it and it's one of the most well polished and put together things on the subject I think I've ever had the pleasure of playing. The big downside is I know nothing else I play is going to hold a candle to this in the slightest and when I've grown jaded with it at some point there's going to be nothing to fill the gap.

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  4. Anonymous8/1/15 01:10

    It's been a while since i enjoyed a VN this much. Even better that this may be the first VN that has ever came out of Europe and not from Japan. If this is their first VN, than they did great for their first try. The art style is actually refreshing after only reading anime VN. Fun plot. Humor is good enough to make you smile/chuckle. Great characters. Prob the best VN in a while for me but its contents(etc lolis) keep it from being popular unfortunately.

    I can't wait for the teams sequel/next work!

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous8/1/15 01:19

      Oh and nice soundtracks

      Delete
  5. Anonymous12/8/15 10:52

    I would like to say that after playing Unteralterbach I felt much better with myself, i know it sounds kind of cheesy but, this game made me feel i wasn't alone as a Lolicon, amazing review! Regards!

    ReplyDelete