If Silent Hill and The Matrix had a baby, it would probably come out looking a little like Master Reboot: a first person cyber-horror adventure game, within which you explore a digital world of the dead called the Soul Cloud.
Heh. This sounds neat as all hell, right?
The Soul Cloud, you see, is a place where those who have passed still wonder. Their memories – and perhaps their consciousness? – have essentially been uploaded and stored there. The public can enter this Soul Cloud for themselves, as and when they want, to communicate with their lost loved ones. There is a suggested two million users doing this; visiting the Soul Cloud, chatting to whomever they will, and then blogging about it in the happily mundane kind of way that people talk about visiting their relatives and friends on, say, Facebook. It’s a very striking premise.
What’s more striking, though, is that Master Reboot turns out to be an almost phenomenally flat experience. It gingerly expresses ambition, and then shies away from it. It shows a great capacity for depth, but chooses not to search those depths, instead proving itself quite happy to paddle in the shallow end of its own possibilities. Do not expect a thoughtful exploration of people, of minds, of emotions; do not expect an exploration of what a human-constructed afterlife could actually mean for mankind. Really, do not expect too much at all, as all thought seems to have been used up on what is, admittedly, a strong and imaginative story foundation.
For what it’s worth, there is some fun to be had with Master Reboot. Between the constant, buzzing weirdness that the game exudes, the tasty musical ambiance that surrounds that weirdness, and the occasionally stimulating puzzle – my favourite was a perspective puzzle found in an art classroom, simple but joyful, reminiscent of what you might stumble across in a survival horror game of old – there is, what seems to be, the makings of a good game.
But then, due to an over-reliance of different play styles and a vague inconsistency in how those play styles are used, there are a lot of negatives to be found in terms of game play. This takes away from those previously mentioned positives. You transition from axe wielding to platform navigating to pistol toting to car driving, to sneaking around amidst airplane seats, etc, etc, and none of these game play styles feel tight. That doesn’t leave a very good impression.
What’s more, the horror elements are only occasionally chilling, and those chills come fewer and further between as the game goes on. Repeated ‘scare noises’ and occasional ‘jump moments’ are delivered without promise, or even vague hint, of a threat. In short, the execution tends to be poor. This is problematic, because the line between horror and comedy is thin, and poor execution risks pushing scary set pieces over that very thin line.
Master Reboot has an intriguing premise and a strong atmosphere, and the fact that it supports the Welsh language is a sweet addition. But the ride, unfortunately, looks and sounds flashier than it is. In fact, by the time you get to the endgame confrontation: a tricky, timed platforming section, in outer space, you might just be left with the feeling that you’ve been duped into playing a bunch of mini-games, strung together by a story that, all in all, isn’t delivering anything. It’s good, then, that the game happens to be fairly cheap. It eases the regrets that you might feel about buying it, somewhat.
Fun Factor: 6. Some sections of the game are fun. Others are less so. Buy it, play it, and experience some enjoyment; but don’t expect a stellar experience.
Control: 8. I played the Wii U release. There was no touch screen interaction, which is a shame, but the game is certainly workable, regardless.
Game play: 5. Multiple game play styles make for variation, but it comes at the cost of quality. Inconsistent.
Graphics: 7. The art style is nice, and some scenes are ‘stop where you stand’ beautiful. But some areas feel generic, and there is sometimes a lack of detail.
Sound: 6-7. The music creates good ambience, and sets up the atmosphere well. A couple of tunes in particular stand out. A lot of them don’t, though.
Replayability: 5. There is an (underwhelming) alternate ending to be found, but considering how un-engaging, and weak, the story can be, and considering how inconsistent the game play is, it seems a big ask to play through the game again just for that.
Overall Score: 6/10.