PS4 version tested
The final frontier, the dark void, the unknown – whatever you refer to it as, Space is scary. Perhaps that’s why it makes for such a compelling setting for many great works of science fiction. To most, the fear of the unknown or the feeling of being alone in a vast space is considered terrifying, which is why games like Dead Space and Alien Isolation work so well.
Combine these elements and you get a pretty solid foundation for a level of immersion which can make the player feel physically uncomfortable. But how do you take a genre that has birthed so many classics and make it your own? No Code might just have the answer.
No stranger to the horror/thriller genre, No Code (Stories Untold, 2017) have knocked it out the park – and into orbit – with their latest creation ‘Observation.’ What if instead of being watched or supported throughout the narrative by an AI, you were the AI? Taking much influence from the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, this sci-fi thriller puts you in control of SAM, the artificial intelligence in charge of the Low Orbit Space Station (LOSS) and its crew – or lack of.
Right from the get-go, tension is pretty high – with SAM possessing limited mechanical functions, low power across the ship and a missing crew, it looks like something on-board has gone seriously awry. You then hear the shaky voice of Dr. Emma Fisher, seemingly the last member of the ship’s crew, who informs you of the thing you fear most, there’s been “some sort of accident” but what, she doesn’t know. With her guidance, you must hack, investigate and observe to discover what mystery has befallen the LOSS.
SAM’s functions will slowly but surely return to normal (perhaps I’ve said ‘normal’ all too soon…) during your exploration, taking you from simple tasks like opening doors to solving slightly more elaborate puzzles. It is a slow but deliberate process, one that keeps you tantalizingly close to the answer but ever so slightly out of reach.
You also have the ability to take the time to scour the ship with a fine-tooth comb a combination of optional audio logs and documents can answer a few more of your unanswered questions as the plot unravels.
As SAM’s functions improve so does your understanding of what might be happening on-board. ‘Observation’ takes a few unexpected twists and turns before ultimately leaving you with what I would describe as a rhetorical question, a cliff-hanger if you will. Which left me pondering for hours long after the credits rolled.
No Code have ambitiously reworked the stereotypical tropes of sci-fi and given ‘Observation’ a fresh but modern take on the genre. Although inspired by the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which can be seen reflected in both SAM, the ship and the environments, its likeness ends there. ‘Observation’ is unique, ambitious and has left me excited to see what No Code will produce from here. As an avid fan of the sci-fi genre, ‘Observation’ encapsulated everything I love about the genre as well as expanding on it. A love-letter to the classics but a modern addition to the genre in its own right.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4
Release Date: 21/05/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Horror, Adventure
Developer: No Code
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Download link: PSN