Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn


  • Publisher: 3909 LLC
  • Designer: Lucas Pope
  • Engine: Unity
  • Platforms: macOS, Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Release: macOS, Windows – October 18, 2018; Switch, PS4, Xbox One – October 18, 2019
  • Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
  • Mode: Single-player


“Return of the Obra Dinn” is a 2018 adventure and puzzle video game created by Lucas Pope and published by 3909 LLC. It was Pope’s second commercial game, following 2013’s “Papers, Please”, and was first released for macOS and Windows before being ported to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One a year later. “Return of the Obra Dinn” was praised for its gameplay, art style, and narrative; it won several awards including the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.


The game is set in 1807 with the player assuming the role of an insurance inspector for the East India Company. The Obra Dinn, a merchant ship missing for five years, has reappeared off the coast of England with no one alive aboard. The player is dispatched to the ghost ship to perform an appraisal, reconstruct the events of the voyage, and determine the fates of all sixty souls aboard, providing a cause of death for those deceased or a probable current location for those presumed living. Investigation is accomplished through the use of the “Memento Mortem”, a pocket watch capable of transporting its user to the moment of death of any corpse located. The game, played in first-person perspective, uses a “1-bit” monochromatic graphical style inspired by games on early Macintosh computers.


The Obra Dinn, an East Indiaman trade ship, departs from Falmouth to the Orient in 1802 with 51 crewmen and 9 passengers. The ship fails to meet her rendezvous at the Cape of Good Hope, and is declared lost. Five years later, the Obra Dinn reappears off the coast of England with every hand either dead or missing. The East India Company sends its Chief Inspector to determine what happened aboard the ship. The inspector receives a logbook and the Memento Mortem stopwatch from Henry Evans, the ship’s surgeon. The stopwatch, when used on a corpse, enables the user to experience and walk around the exact moment of the corpse’s death, frozen in time. With this and the logbook, the inspector sets out to unravel the fate of all 60 aboard.


“Return of the Obra Dinn” was developed by Lucas Pope, known for his previous game “Papers, Please”. The game was built using the Unity engine and features a unique “1-bit” monochromatic graphical style, inspired by early Macintosh games.


The game was highly praised for its unique gameplay mechanics, art style, and compelling narrative. It won several awards, including the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.