When it comes to point-and-click adventures, 1990s titles such as The 7th Hour, Gabriel Knight and Tex Murphy set the gold standard in how games should look and play out. Fast forward to 2017, and those kind of games seem a thing of the past, with graphics that looked a lot better then than they do now. Sure, there are a lot of point-and-click games available now, but few make players reminiscent of how they felt when they first discovered Phantasmagoria.
For players looking for that kind of 90s adventure gaming thrill with updated graphics and game mechanics, there’s Observer, a cyberpunk adventure set in a dystopian future where everyone isn’t just plugged in, but also carrying around parts of computerized parts inside of them. Although it’s a little clunky at times (sort of like those 90s games), it’s also a cool dark ride that leaves you wanting more.
Observer puts you inside the body of Dan Lazarski, someone who acts as an “an elite neural detective with the authority to hack and invade suspects’ minds.” Yeah, that’s as cool as it sounds. Dan can literally solve crimes by hacking into people’s minds. Dan works for a police department funded by the corporation Chiron and, at the beginning of the game, gets a strange message from his son, Adam.
That message leads Dan to a hotel that immediately goes into lockdown, with fears that the Nanophage has struck again (it’s sort of a tech version of the plague). But what Dan finds at this hotel and its surrounding area is something much worse than the plague and he will end up having to dive deep into the minds of murder victims and himself to find out exactly what’s going on.
As far as story goes, this game has it. There’s something very Blade Runner about how everything plays out and there are moments that are genuinely shocking, if outright horrifying.
As this is a point-and-click game, there is a lot of, well, pointing and clicking, but the game’s interface is intuitive enough that it’s easy to figure out what items need attention. Dan also has some special senses that he can use, but that’s when things get a little more complicated for players. Sometimes it’s hard using these senses to determine exactly what Dan needs more information on because while in that mode, the picture fills with static and becomes black and white.
There are also puzzles, mostly consisting of how to get out of areas. Although most are fairly straightforward for players who think them through, there are a few times that end up frustrating. For example, one part of the game has Dan traversing through a forest (that isn’t really a forest), but there is no indication of what he needs to do to exit that particular area. Maybe gamers will figure it out eventually, but it’s more of a headache than a challenge.
There is also a lot of linear paths that Dan must walk through to get from point A to point B. At times, this gets a little annoying, especially when many of those paths don’t offer any extra clues or items to examine or look at.
Voice acting and sound
Remember the previous mention of Blade Runner? The game developers didn’t mess around in choosing a voice for Dan, who is Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner fame. Who doesn’t want to play a game voiced by Hauer, after all?
The problem is that Hauer feels a little wooden at the beginning of the game, like he just called in his performance. Maybe it’s all part of his gruff cop routine, but the voice acting does get better once things start getting crazy for Dan.
The other voice actors are really good, so maybe that’s why Hauer’s stiff performance stands out so much.
Sound is where Observer really excels, though. With an adventure that constantly throws things at the player, both in the “real world” and the digital realm, sound is key in creating a certain atmosphere. Observer does that really well, making spooky scenes even spookier and using the sound of creatures hunting you important when you’re trying to stay hidden.
Graphically, Observer feels like a throwback to the 90s, with a lot of flickering, digital noise and wobbly screen action. It creates a very cool vibe, but it can also get nausea-inducing at times. Players might need to take more breaks while playing this one.
The dystopian world that Dan lives in, though, really looks like something right out of Blade Runner, and it’s likely that movie served as inspiration for the graphics and character designs.
Although Observer does offer up headaches occasionally, as well as some clunkiness with the special senses mode that Dan uses throughout the game. it is still a fun game to play with a story that pays off in a nice macabre way at the end. There’s enough here to keep players enjoying it without getting too bored, save for a lot of linear walking, and the cyberpunk dystopian setting is a lot of fun to roam around in.
Observer is available now for download on PC and consoles.
Rating: (3 / 5)
Note: FanGirlConfessions.com received a review copy of Observer for PlayStation 4.