Brukel’s plot hinges on memories, not manpower.
The Game: Brukel
The Maker: Lifelong Games, $9.99; available on Steam.
The Basics: Brukel is unique for a World War II video game: instead of being strategy-focused or a first-person shooter, it features the experiences of developer Bob De Schutter’s 93-year-old Belgian grandmother, Bie Verlinden, whose home was occupied by both German and American soldiers.
The Objective: Players assume the role of De Schutter as he explores a digital recreation of Bie’s childhood farmhouse, Brukel. His voice serves as an interactive guide, directing players to take cellphone pictures of specific items in each room. Bie’s own recorded voice fades in as she describes the objects’ history and significance. As players venture farther into the abandoned house, intensity builds as the past and present blur together and Bie’s stories come to life.
Historical Accuracy: De Schutter built the entire game around his grandmother’s memories, recording five hours of interviews during multiple takes and designing Brukel based on her descriptions. Every story comes from Bie’s lived experiences as a teenager under foreign occupation; if any contain factual inaccuracies, they’re still truthful at heart.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The game’s imagery is beautiful and lifelike, enhanced with mood lighting that gradually dims as tension grows. But while suspenseful, Brukel isn’t combat-focused—a rarity for World War II-themed games and a change of pace for players used to action-packed battles.
Playability: The game is easily playable on a regular screen; try wearing a virtual reality headset for a truly immersive experience. Pay attention to the cellphone camera instructions, as they’re key for advancement.
The Bottom Line: Some might find Brukel’s pace slow, but it nonetheless manages to be suspenseful, interactive, and deeply educational.
World War II Rating: 5/5 stars
—Hayden A. Foster is the assistant curator at the Institute of Military Technology and a writer for American Rifleman. ✯
This article was published in the April 2020 issue of World War II.