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Somerville


Mr Do 71
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In terms of unfinished it sort of feels like this needed a few more months of work/polish but, instead, it’s just been dropped onto the service. Some people have already dropped and deleted it and word of mouth has spread and the damage has been done. It’s a shame as I’ve pushed on past the “issues” and it’s pretty good with some nice set pieces and locations.

 

My comments aren’t just aimed at Gamepass (which I love and much prefer to Sony’s offering), it’s aimed at all the sub services. I’m with you, I love these shorter games and the Indie stuff which compliment the bigger titles perfectly. Only problem is there are currently just too many games to be able to get through! Not a bad problem to have really. 😁

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16 hours ago, BadgerFarmer said:

Hmm. Perhaps the issue is having a 1500 word count for such a thin game - it's difficult to avoid some detail. But I'm generally careful with spoilers.

 

In this case, I felt I need to give examples of my frustrations, and most of the examples I gave are from the opening sections of the game. There's also a certain amount that I felt I had to mention to explain the core mechanic and premise. I was deliberately vague about later plot developments.

 

Anyway, it's a short game on Game Pass that's out today, so reviews in this case aren't a buyer's guide so much as a critique. Perhaps it is wise to read them afterwards.

 

I do think the game's a dud, though. 


The review is a tad spoilery but that’s ok. It’s what I believe to be an incorrect use of ‘macguffin’ that isn’t.
 

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Completed this tonight too and it was… OK.

 

Visually and aurally it’s very well done and captures a bleak world gone to ruin and peril quite well in places, with some really crunchy and menacing sci-fi sounds to accompany the often evocative landscapes.

 

It’s a very woolly feeling game though, with controls that never feel right, clunky animation, and a halfway-house between 3D and 2D navigation that has you frequently clumsily bumping into scenery and awkwardly mashing the A button while you attempt to place your character in the precise spot to interact with the environment.

 

It’s worth playing and has some cool moments, but I can’t help but feel disappointed by how it turned out in the end considering that it was one of my most anticipated games and the trailers suggested it would be something really special.


I know the developers' link to Playdead has been overstated a little but it’s clear from where this game’s legacy is derived and it’s not a patch on its progenitor Inside. 
 

I’d give it a 7 and will probably have forgotten it within a month or so.

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I’m really enjoying this now. Just done a little puzzle where I actually had to stop and think. Was stuck for a good 10mins or so before it clicked. Don’t get that happening much these days.
 

Reminds me of old adventure games, the kind of thing that would have been on the C-64. I’d say there’s maybe a Flashback/Another World influence to it too. The audio is fantastic  and I really do like the graphics a lot. In fact, I’d say it’s up there with Tunic as one of my favs. The part with the river is stunning.
 

I’m about halfway through it by the looks of the Chapter Select. I’d say 7 or 8/10 sounds about right so far, depending on if you like the style/puzzles/atmosphere etc. If it was running at 60fps with no technical issues I think it would be getting more positive impressions. Oh and the dog! ❤️
 

Edit - Its throwing loads of nice little set pieces out now.. The locations are great. Bizarrely, the technical issues seem to appear less and less as the game goes on even though the graphics are getting better and better.  It’s 100% worth sticking with and giving it a proper go. The early jank is not a good representation of the rest of the game.

 

Finished it in one sitting and got 3 different “bad” endings. They all seem cheap as chips, as does the last 3rd of the game. Just as it’s getting really good, it turns into a sub par on rails walking sim. Some nice graphics and sound on those bits but zero gameplay, no puzzles or seemingly any kind of intelligible story. No idea what it was supposed to be about. Seems like they had a decent idea but didn’t have anywhere to go with it after the first 2/3rds of the game,

 

Graphics and audio are fantastic. Could have been a strong 8 or even 9/10 game. Due to the last 3rd and the story (which had some nice emotional moments) shitting the bed it’s more a 7/10. Worth a go, especially if it gets patched.

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I think I could have lived with the bad controls and glitches and sometimes illogical puzzles if the atmosphere and emotional heart of the story had landed for me. But with no words or voices to work with it needs far stronger direction. 

 

The backgrounds are sometimes well framed, but there's quite a lot of generic post-apocalyptic stuff in them, and then the animation and sound effects are often weak. I don't think it establishes a strong bond between the family at the start, there's almost no interaction between the man and the dog, and the threats in the game have no weight or presence - there's more panic in trying to run away from one attack dog in Inside than there is throughout the whole of Somerville.

 

It's not just the performance that makes it feel unpolished, it's that lack of detail everywhere. Little things that Inside got so right, and put it in a completely different league.

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@BadgerFarmer

 

I thought it did a pretty good job of engaging me emotionally. That opening drive to the house was lovely – driving home at dusk with your family (for me, anyway) is a really strong image of safety and cosiness, so I was pretty much immediately identifying with the family. It probably helps that I’m tall and thin with a beard and dark hair, like the dad in the game, but I was right there with them, doing a bad job of keeping them safe much like I probably would do in that kind of situation. Them immediately deciding to GTFO in the car didn’t strike me as an illogical or stupid move either – it seemed like a reasonable course of action. Probably not the best course of action, but I can't say I would be especially clearheaded in the circumstances.

 

I like the way that the dad coughs and shivers and gets tired too. He looks more and more haggard as the game progresses, which I thought was a subtle but really effective touch.

 

The only real negative so far is that the cave sequence goes on a bit, but I’m guessing that this environment allowed them to have different kinds of puzzles. The liquify / solidify mechanic is really clever, and it makes ingenious use of it in places. I could have done without some of the minecart stuff, admittedly.

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I took a break from Sonic Frontiers to play this and broadly it struck home for me.

 

I did empathise with the dad and I enjoyed the puzzles.    The only letdowns were the sluggish movement and a couple of times where the playable character froze in place.   The second of those was mitigated by the very generous checkpoints.

 

On the subject of the opening drive,  I hope the studio goes on to make a topdown racer, Somerville Skidmarks.  Would buy.

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I'm quite torn in my feelings about the game. I completed it over 2 sittings and it took me 3.5 hours in total. I'm not sure that I enjoyed a single bit of it though, it past the time and I was vaguely interested to see how it ended.

 

I'm with @BadgerFarmerin that I had no emotional connection to any of the characters at all, and I didn't think it gave me any reason to. Contrast this with Inside which somehow managed to make me care about the player character almost from the off.

 

As has been noted it felt really unpolished with awful screen tearing in the early stages.Twice the mother picked up the toddler and for two frames each time the baby just disappeared before reappearing in her grip. The control is also really woolly and I can't count the amount of times that a little bit of scenary of tiny rock out crop would stop your progress. Also I found the fact that you moved at random different speeds really annoying. I appreciate that when you were getting sick it made sense, but at earlier points it just seemed to decide, okay we are going to restrict your movement speed at this point for no reason.

 

The dog is weird as well, there for some of it then just disappears then reappears etc. Seemed like they thought it was a good idea and helpful at times to show you where to go/what to do, but then didn't really bother trying to stop the thing constantly clipping with the environment.

 

It also felt really really videogamey, in that the only reason to do anything you did the entire game was because that is all you could do. I mean I appreciate in general that is how a lot of games work but maybe because I wasn't invested in it at all I just felt like I was mostly pushing left* because that is all there was to the game. The 'puzzles' don't really even deserve to be called that as basically most of the time they involved doing the only thing you could actually do in that paticular area. What made them difficult was the environmental design that at points made it really difficult to see what you were supposed to press on (I think I spent more time trying to get an elevator to go up than any of the puzzles because I couldn't find the button once in it). Also sometimes it was very prescriptive about where you had to stand to interact with objects, (I actually had to look up how to get out of the basement at the very begining because I didn't think I could interact with anything. it wasn't till I looked it up and knew exactly what to do that I finally shimmied around enough for it to move a plank). This also extended to the fact that you would climb up on shoulder high rocks, but could climb over a five bar gate, or at times an angle high steep.

 

 The insta deaths were annoying, although fortunately the reload was pretty quick.

 

Also as @CrichStand suggests above the final third just seems to peater out. You get the impression that the puzzles are going to ramp up and all of a sudden, no, it's push forwards (rather than left) to the end of the 'story'

 

*I know this is personal but it really irritated me that it was left most of the time! If you are going to go in one direction it should be right, if videogames have taught me anything it's that hahaha. But seriously constantly pushing right is much more comfortable for the hand than pushing left I find.

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Clearly you’re meant to emotionally connect with being a family at the start of this game but the main fucking character doesn’t give a damn about his dog that fucks off almost immediately.

 

as an owner of two tender little poppets I can’t get on board with this. 

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I found that the hardest thing to work out in the entire game

 

Spoiler

to the right of the stairs there are some planks, you can pull these away to reveal a light. Hold the light and use your arm power.

 

For me at least the game didn't really give me any obvious indication that I would interact with the bits of wood.

 

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I completed this last night, and thought it was excellent. Beautiful imagery and a strong sense of place - I loved the forbidding skies, and moody banks of cloud. Plus, some puzzles that weren't too hard but nonetheless gave me that little hit of "aha!" and made me feel clever despite their relative ease. I especially liked the way that the game made you feel like you were seeing a tiny slice of a much bigger story, and I have to confess I found it quite moving in places, especially when

 

Spoiler

you're reunited with your family, and have them snatched away shortly afterwards. That was heartbreaking, especially when they get surrounded on the church tower.

 

It reminded me a LOT of Another World - no dialogue, flat polygon look, scrawny protagonist, lots of crawling around - and had a similarly brutal attitude to killing you if you don't do exactly the right thing, but for all that it wasn't frustrating, and was very generous with checkpoints. They're quite different games but if anything I preferred this to Inside, which was a great game but one where I found the story and imagery to be a bit jumbled and random. This had lots of surreal imagery, but it was all pulling in the same direction, whereas I found Inside to be a little bit unsatisfying because the plot felt obscure; it was hard to figure out how each setpiece fitted into the same world as the others.

 

Surprised it's got such a muted reception, to be honest. I think they could have done more with the puzzles, and less time in that cave, but this was pretty special I thought.

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2 hours ago, K said:

I completed this last night, and thought it was excellent. Beautiful imagery and a strong sense of place - I loved the forbidding skies, and moody banks of cloud. Plus, some puzzles that weren't too hard but nonetheless gave me that little hit of "aha!" and made me feel clever despite their relative ease. I especially liked the way that the game made you feel like you were seeing a tiny slice of a much bigger story, and I have to confess I found it quite moving in places, especially when

 

  Reveal hidden contents

you're reunited with your family, and have them snatched away shortly afterwards. That was heartbreaking, especially when they get surrounded on the church tower.

 

It reminded me a LOT of Another World - no dialogue, flat polygon look, scrawny protagonist, lots of crawling around - and had a similarly brutal attitude to killing you if you don't do exactly the right thing, but for all that it wasn't frustrating, and was very generous with checkpoints. They're quite different games but if anything I preferred this to Inside, which was a great game but one where I found the story and imagery to be a bit jumbled and random. This had lots of surreal imagery, but it was all pulling in the same direction, whereas I found Inside to be a little bit unsatisfying because the plot felt obscure; it was hard to figure out how each setpiece fitted into the same world as the others.

 

Surprised it's got such a muted reception, to be honest. I think they could have done more with the puzzles, and less time in that cave, but this was pretty special I thought.

It controls like a dog though, which is where I presume most of the criticism is coming from.

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Started this last night. Went in completely cold not knowing anything about it.

 

Loving the art style and the very hands off approach. At first I found it a bit frustrating as well we are used to games being games and giving you hints and cues on what to do next. So after adjusting to this quite enjoying the experience.

 

Just got outside of the house and looking forward to continuing the journey.

 

Definitely got Another World/Inside vibes.

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This is nice. The visual style yes, but the very British sci-fi vibe is reminiscent of War of the Worlds or Day of the Triffids or something like that. 
 

I can’t say I recognise the criticisms. Not yet anyway. 

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Curious about the buggy state of this game. It's been in development since 2017 and Chris Olsen was prototyping it since 2014.

 

Playdead took 6 years to make Inside, but they ensured that was polished to perfection over that long period. Love to know why Jumpship felt they had to release the game now, after not having promised any release date.

 

The assumption being the usual, they were broke. They've announced they've sold the company to Thunderful Games now and Dino Patti is getting a promotion as a result so hopefully any future games they make don't have to be released as paid Betas.

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Finished this last night. 
 

Really enjoyed the story, atmosphere and art style with some hitting emotional bits. Some really amazing action and direction in places too that are visually very impressive. 
 

But I found the bugs a bit too distracting as they were frequent enough that sometimes when faced with a puzzle, I wasn’t sure if I was getting things wrong my end, or if it was a bug. 
 

Deffo worth pushing through the performance issues though, ultimately what it does is really unique and accomplished. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

My progress has been very slow because I’m finding the puzzles oblique and extremely difficult. I’ve had to refer to a guide on at least two occasions. The abrasive nature of the character movement in the world, while certainly overstated, is becoming more apparent. 
 

I’m still enjoying it, and the visual style and vibe, but the game is making progress difficult, but not in a satisfying way. 

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I started this this evening, and I've only played for about 90 minutes, but what I have played I've found really intriguing. Performance isn't great, with frequent stuttering, but I don't think I've encountered any out-and-out bugs yet. And it's still early days, but I can't say the puzzles have given me much trouble so far; I just head towards anything coloured yellow, and with such a limited move set, there's only so much you can do before you figure it out. I may well eat my words later, though.

 

The audio design is top notch, and there have been a couple of creative and fun set pieces so far, including 

Spoiler

the bit where you have to hide from the purple light in shadow from the parasols, and the bit where you move through the alien matter - I love the design of this stuff, incidentally - using the flying saucer prop from the Pyramid Stage equivalent.

 

Maybe I've gone in with lowered expectations after it's immediate reception, but I'm enjoying it so far and am looking forward to playing it again tomorrow.

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Started today and have had to give up at

 

Spoiler

The festival. Getting to the little food court area where you need to use the very visible lights to clear the side of the space and shine up to clear a path at the top of a ladder.

 

I know what the solution is. Knew it the minute I got there. But can I get it to trigger? Nope. I've watched multiple walkthroughs now who all got it to trigger, but I cannot.

 

A shame. I was enjoying that. 

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34 minutes ago, Pelekophoros said:

Started today and have had to give up at

 

  Hide contents

The festival. Getting to the little food court area where you need to use the very visible lights to clear the side of the space and shine up to clear a path at the top of a ladder.

 

I know what the solution is. Knew it the minute I got there. But can I get it to trigger? Nope. I've watched multiple walkthroughs now who all got it to trigger, but I cannot.

 

A shame. I was enjoying that. 

I had a similar thing. Got to the the well near the start and knew that I had to make the little creatures follow me, but no matter what I did they just wouldn’t. I don’t have time for shit like that, so fucked it off.

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3 hours ago, JPL said:

I had a similar thing. Got to the the well near the start and knew that I had to make the little creatures follow me, but no matter what I did they just wouldn’t. I don’t have time for shit like that, so fucked it off.


This is one of the puzzles that stumped me. I solved it the ‘wrong’ way, and when it didn’t work I gave up on the solution, when really it was my method that was at fault. A quick Google and I found out I had been right to begin with.

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32 minutes ago, Popo said:


This is one of the puzzles that stumped me. I solved it the ‘wrong’ way, and when it didn’t work I gave up on the solution, when really it was my method that was at fault. A quick Google and I found out I had been right to begin with.

I ended up googling it in the end thinking I was going mad. My method was right, but I just couldn’t get it to work. As nice as it looked, the badly implemented puzzles and shitty controls  just put me off it and I’ve not been back.


Honestly , I think if you’re going to strip the UI away and not really give any indication on what you’re doing is correct, then it has to work flawlessly.

 

I had high hopes for this game, but it turned out to be a let down. I might revisit it further down the line if they sort out all the issues.

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21 hours ago, Jamie John said:

I may well eat my words later, though.

 

Having completed this earlier, it turns out that I will end up eating my words, after all.

 

Not because of bugs or annoying puzzles, though - I didn't have any problems with those - but because I thought the final act of the game was a massive let down. I won't say much more than that, but this was on its way to being a solid 8/10 for me up until about the last half an hour, then it fell of a cliff a bit and just left me with this expression - :mellow: - by the very end. The final sequence and credits, in particular, I found very pretentious; I was half expecting 'Fin' to appear on the screen.

 

If you're looking for something similar to this - atmosphere-driven, dialogue-free, linear puzzle platformers - but better, and you've already played Inside, I'd recommend checking out Little Nightmares and its sequel (the sequel especially), or FAR: Stranger Tides, which came out earlier this year and is also on Game Pass. I'd rate all three of those games over this.

 

Hopefully Playdead's third game will be better.

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