Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review: Dead Synchronicity


While the Switch isn’t dominated by a classic Nintendo “kiddie” games that rival fanboys tend to cling to its games are generally, on a tonal level, not terribly dark or grim either. Even shooters like DOOM, with all of their sound and fury, are generally just violent but that isn’t the same as being disturbing. The closest I’ve seen to this point was This is the Police but even that story, with all of its corruption and seedy elements was still pretty familiar to anyone who has watched some crime movies or television shows. Dead Synchronicity is the first title on the Switch I’ve played that has gone into tougher territory, and though it doesn’t provide a satisfying ending (or, perhaps any ending at all) it does make for an unsettling journey.

You’ll play the game as Michael, an amnesiac who has awoken to a world that has been altered by a catastrophic event called the “Great Wave”. Having been found and saved by a man named Rod, early on you’ll begin to get your bearings as you move around to find that you’re living in a refugee camp full of a variety of people who are either unsavory or in some way trying to maintain some level of dignity. You’ll soon find that Rod’s son has become infected and risks becoming discovered as one of “The Dissolved”, facing a horrific death either by the disease of when the cleaning squads discover and capture him. In order to help the man that saved your life you’ll then venture into the city to try to find a cure as well as to discover more about who you were.


The adventure elements in the game that are driving the narrative come with what I’d consider the normal risks. The expectation is that in order to progress you’ll find certain items by searching every nook and cranny to then figure out how to make use of them. Over the course of playing most of the puzzles made general sense once I’d figured them out but sometimes there were obstacles to progress that felt a bit contrived or artificial as well. One thing that helps greatly is that if you hold down the shoulder button all of the “hot spots” in the area will light up, allowing you to at least know what can be either looked at or directly interacted with. Honestly without this I’m not positive I would have just randomly clicked in specific spots that looked a bit nondescript so it is an important feature.

Overall there are a few oddities with the game worth noting. Perhaps most unusual of all is that the touchscreen isn’t used at all (even in menus), instead you’ll be moving around a cursor with the analog stick. This generally works just fine but it certainly feels like an opportunity missed with the Switch, taking away what would probably be the ideal way to play. Much more concerning, and perhaps being a disqualifier for some, is the fact that the more invested you are in the story and what’s happening the more aggravating it is when it abruptly ends, providing no satisfaction or resolution. Especially for a game with such a grim tone there being some positive to walk away with would have been nice, instead you just end up having more questions.


Overall Dead Synchronicity is a solid point-and-click style adventure. The story is something unique, the setting is certainly unfamiliar, and the imagery and tone aren’t likely to be quickly forgotten. While the voice acting isn’t uniformly excellent for the most part it manages to help pull you into the world rather than being distracted by it and for this sort of game that’s a plus. Unfortunately the warning to people intrigued by the game’s premise cannot be overstated, even though the game is interesting be aware of what you’re buying into and that the story is very much unfinished. If you can overlook that and just want to enjoy the ride credit to the developers it does deliver something unique.

Score: 6

Pros:
  • A bleak and post-apocalyptic world to explore
  • The voice acting generally helps pull you into the world
  • While some puzzles can still be baffling the inclusion of a button that reveals hot spots is much appreciated

Cons:
  • The game essentially lacks a proper Third Act
  • Some puzzles and roadblocks to progress can be a bit odd or baffling at times
  • Lack of touchscreen support is a missed opportunity


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