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Observation Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Observation, developed by No Code and published by Devolver Digital, follows the journey of an AI onboard the space station “Observation” and several of the crew. Playing as the AI, named SAM, you assist the crew in repairing and rebooting the station after an unknown catastrophe strikes the station. Slowly unraveling the mystery of the station’s issues and discovering the sister motives of the crew drives the main intrigue of the story, while some very engaging (although sometimes frustratingly vague) puzzles make up the bulk of gameplay.

LOTS TO DO

The vast majority of SAM’s duties are to jump around station cameras, software interfaces, and, later, a small drone used for solving problems with the station and your own bugs (via short puzzles), as well as code hunting, and searching for context clues and schematics. What impressed me most was the sheer number of unique puzzles. Several were used multiple times, but when they reappeared it felt like more a mastery of the ship’s systems rather than a reused gating. And among the variety of the puzzles involved, only one gave me any real issues as to what I was supposed to be doing, but even that felt in line with what was running parallel in the story at the time. Observation really manages to make you feel like a dysfunctional AI relearning all of the systems of the ship you once had mastered. While navigation through the ship can be difficult due to the labyrinthine design and awkward zero-G controls, it adds more to the experience than it detracts.

IMMERSIVE

Observation wastes no time in drawing you into a truly fantastic story that is extremely well written, voiced, and paced, but will leave you guessing as to what really happened by time the end credits roll. Great animation, visuals, and sound design bring the station to life and communicate the eldritch horrors that make their way into the narrative beautifully. Compounded by some very climactic cutscenes that always linger a little too long, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for most of the game.

VALUE

Given the launch price, despite all the great aspects of Observation, it’s hard to recommend to even huge fans of story-driven or puzzle games, mostly due to the extreme brevity of the game. My first playthrough lasted a little over three hours whilst playing completely blind. A second playthrough revealed that there is no real failure, no alternate choices, no way to skip cutscenes, and a few minor dialogue changes if you decide to investigate a bit more or less.

All of this comes together into a game that, while truly fantastic on a first playthrough, has little to no replay value. Some minor nitpicks in terms of bugs or issues seen throughout include that sometimes objects (particularly walls) flicker in and out of existence, offering a view outside the station, although it's difficult to tell if this is intentional due to the nature of the story. There are also a few awkward moments of clipping objects in cutscenes — nothing major, but enough that it was noticeable, especially given the length, frequency, and lack of camera control in these scenes.

6

The Verdict: Good

A fantastic, albeit brief, story-driven puzzle game with a great (if not a little difficult to understand) story, gorgeous visuals, and haunting sound design that suffers greatly from its near complete lack of replay value and high launch price.

See About Us to learn how we score

Coal Fire
Written by
Monday, 17 June 2019 03:52
Published in Adventure

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CoalFire is an enthusiastic gamer who has spent the last few years digging for the hidden gems of indie gaming. A scientist by education, he breaks down the components of games sorting out what works, what doesn't and how it all works to create a cohesive experience. When he's not analyzing them, he's still playing.

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