Switch version tested
Review code provided
A Cult Cult Classic?
Sagebrush’s story is as generic as it comes in regard to historical/entertainment cults. It feels weird saying this because real-life people have passed away in masses at the hands of cult leaders and brainwashing. I do not want to dive into such a touchy taboo topic really. Although, if you have watched a television show, movie, or documentary that depicts how someone ends up in a cult all the way to the demise of the cult then you are not going to see anything new in this game’s plot. Personally, I figured out the ending well before I got there.
The player, an investigative reporter, arrives at the abandoned cult compound to find answers about what exactly happened there. I was most reminded of the walking simulator Gone Home while playing this indie. The atmosphere is very eerie and unsettling. At first, I was not sure if I was completely on my own on the grounds or were there going to be pop scares or what. The main thing you will be doing is going from one building to another trying to find usually a key to unlock another location on the land, but sometimes you will need a tool to advance the story.
Doors that you open will close a few seconds later on their own and it crept me out a bit until I realized it was just how the game functioned and there are no cheap tricks for scares. Along the way there are plenty of notes and cassette tape recorders to find that provide hefty background story of the compound’s residents. You can speed up the playing with a sprint button that comes in handy when you have to trek across the entire map because that is how the key order is laid out. There is no marker to indicate where you are on the map and that was a poor omission to me.
I felt the game would have vastly benefited from puzzles over just item retrieval. My intentions are not to spoil anything but I do not recall ever finding a flashlight in the game. I know for a fact that you do not start with one in your inventory and it never appears in your inventory at any point. Then, it starts to get darker and on top of that you go into nearly pitch-black underground mines. I could not see a gawrsh darn thing or advance the story! I had to look up what was going on and I saw a video where the player had flashlight way earlier than the point I was at… It turns out there are batteries you need to find at a certain location and the character just puts them into a flashlight that I don’t recall ever finding or being told I had. Perhaps I completely forgot picking it up, but either way I know it never appeared in the inventory menu the entire game. After the mines, there is one item location that is too cryptically hidden as well. Light switches were harder to find to read the notes than the keys needed to advance to me.
Visually and audibly the game is not appealing, personally. HOWEVER, the creators were going for a 90s-ish Sierra PC Games like vibe so really they accomplished what they set out to do. At least they were not trying to sell it as something else and then not deliver at all on acceptable modern graphics like the more recently released Xenon Racer and Mutant Year Zero. With the fuzzy pixelated looks and static voice recordings it really is up to each individual gamer to decide whether they want to experience a throwback stylized game or not. So given all this even though I was not crazy about the sights and sounds of the game I am not knocking it in its score in these regards.
The only point I have to make about visuals that I can put against the game is that as you progress in the story the sun goes down and when it gets dark it gets too dark. I found myself looking at my own face in the Switch’s screen over the game itself and made it harder to focus on what I was playing.
I was not captivated by the story at all. In relation to a cult, everything detailed about what unfortunately happened at the compound in this game is all standard events for any other plot. I believe the game successfully captivated a setting of uneasiness for the player. Anyone who enjoys a game like Gone Home and has not watched several pieces on cults would enjoy this game. It only lasted me a little over two hours and I feel like that is the perfect length for this type of game. Hard to say whether $5.99 is a reasonable price because beauty will be in the eye of the beholder for Sagebrush. (If anything I do not think the game is wildly overpriced, maybe a dollar or two less would be the perfect price to me). As long as you know what you are getting into and pay attention to notes you read this game can be enjoyed.
TBG Score: 6.5/10
Platform: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 09/08/2019
File Size: 323 MB
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure/Walk Sim
Developer: Redact Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop