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Somerville (Xbox Series X) – Review

Mystery. An air of mystery goes a long way for me in a game. There is something about diving into the unknown to solve mysteries with great consequences and winding trials. ‘Somerville’ developed by JumpShip, while dark and mysterious, answers none of my lingering questions at its conclusion.

Without giving too much away, Somerville is a desperate tale of one nameless man’s journey through the beginnings of an alien takeover. Accompanied by his dog, he must traverse the countryside, diverting perils, dodging the invasive enemies, and patrolling scouts’ clutches all the while solving environmental puzzles and hazards to save his family.

While having no dialogue at all, the story is told through your character’s (He gives off very John Krasinki ‘Quiet Place’ vibes) actions, the surroundings, and directions. It paints a bleak and intriguing narrative that I couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of. Alas, I was still left though with many unanswered and confusing conclusions.

The controls are very simple. You will use a stick to traverse the environments and a singular button to interact with objects. As the story progresses our protagonist gains trigger utilised powers attached to a mechanical arm. These will be used to manipulate the alien substances around you, hardening and smoothing it out like neon electric water or hardened lava.

The game is mostly about sneaking around and solving puzzles. Often these will be finding a power source and directing it to proceed further. These aren’t very challenging and require very little thought process. Perfect for a speed runner but a bit lacklustre for such a short game in general. Once the puzzles are solved though the platforming, stealth, and overall actions scenes more than makeup for it.

Somerville’s beauty and curse is its use of gorgeous camera angles to paint the picture of the narrative. Its conscious lack of dialogue means it needs to be creative in its storytelling. The scenes will pop from forefront gameplay to background, side-scrolling and top-down sporadically. As effective as this use was though, at times it was a push-and-pull fight of where you wanted to go as they transitioned back and forth. The camera angles also create a sense of uneasiness as if being watched, stalked, or observed, adding to the whole tone overall.

The graphics and audio complement each other perfectly in setting a bleak and atmospheric tone. Feeling like you are coming straight off the set of ‘War of The Worlds’ I really appreciated the muddy watercolour graphics with the minimalist colour-blocked detailing.

In dark murky cues, colors pops will either mean danger or interactable objectives. There is no soundtrack thankfully as it would just divert the attention away from the environmental sounds of our man’s harsh breathing, the droning of enemy scouts, and the dire creaking of the trees and buildings around this desperate endeavour to just survive.

Somerville is being compared to every similar game to it such as ‘Inside’ or ‘Limbo’ and while it is along the lines of these, it does stand on its own two feet, albeit, wobbly, but as its own tale. The story was gripping and twisting despite the ease of the puzzles and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to our lone hero even if I left feeling a little lost.

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The Good

  • The twisting quirky story
  • Simple controls
  • Platforming, stealth and action
  • Use of camera angles
  • Gorgeous minimalist graphics
  • Atmospheric audio
  • Cool arm mechanic

The Bad

  • Not very challenging puzzles
  • Irritable camera angle changes

Written by: Stacey


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