BRING HER is displayed across my screen, bring who? To where exactly? This is just one mystery you’ll want answers to in this unique Sci-Fi thriller experience.
Should we as a species worry about AI rising up in the future and enslaving us all? Maybe. Maybe not. This question has been touched on in media for years now, but in Observation, things are done a little differently. In a unique twist, you are the AI. You control the space station’s AI system known as S.A.M, (System Administration & Maintenance) as you try and figure out exactly what happened after a strange event has your crew scattered and leaving your system massively corrupted. You will be assisted by Dr Emma Fisher, who helps you get to grips with how you can interact with the ship’s systems aboard the space station, Observation.
Within the first half an hour or so, some of the mystery starts to unfold, whilst also creating more intrigue. The space station has moved further into space from it’s original posting, by quite a distance. It seems that S.A.M was responsible, but when questioned by a scared Emma his response as to why they are here is a sincere ‘I don’t know’. It’s not long after that, that S.A.M and Emma experience some strange goings on, in the form of glyphs...From here I could end up spoiling major things, narrative wise. Which I feel that would dampen the whole experience. So don’t expect any spoilers from here on.
To recover S.A.M’s memory you must collect data which is either taped on walls as documents or on files located within laptops. Finding every bit a data will give the player a deeper understanding of the Space Stations crew, even giving SAM schematics to unlock new areas previously inaccessible. Certain data will allow you to get to know the crew a bit more, how their relationships are and what sort of work they do on the station. While it may seem like eaves dropping, I suppose the AI was already aware of certain aspects that went on within the station.
The majority of the game and its story is told from the perspective of the space stations cameras, you as an AI don’t have legs or arms to get around the many cramped corridors. Instead, you must use the few cameras that are placed in each module giving you limited movement but allowing you to zoom in on hatch controls, laptops and anything else that may interest you.
At certain points within the game, you’ll be able to possess spheres, which look very similar to the cores in Portal 2. The spheres themselves are easy enough to use, although certain areas of the space station will make traversal slightly more difficult. I mean, you’d pull them over under suspicion of driving under the influence type difficult.
You will go on ‘space walks’ whilst possessing a sphere, these sections are where my only complaint from the game lies. It can be incredibly disorienting, a few times I was left confused as to where to go and where I actually was. I expect those with motion sickness might be affected. Don’t let that put you off, as you can set waypoints if needed which will guide you to where you need to be.
Puzzles are plentiful within Observation, which could be memorising a series of patterns or numbers which you then input manually or hitting specific buttons in a short time limit. These aren’t too taxing but will build tension, as one mistake could cost the integrity to the space station. They’re displayed in a way in which they look complicated, but getting down to the nitty gritty of them shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
What surprised me was how grounded the technology used in Observation actually is, in fact, the space station and the spheres are all based on current technology available. None of the equipment, systems or aesthetic of the station feel out of place, despite been set in 2026. It adds a heavy dose of realism to a sci-fi game. Emma doesn’t walk about the station, she floats around in Zero-G with great ease. Each module has equipment on each wall with only small clues hinting to which way is up. The station itself is claustrophobic, debris floating all around, electrical wiring haphazardly strewn about. The attention to detail on everything is staggering, allowing the game to create an atmosphere that persists throughout.
Observation is a tremendous game, from start to finish you’ll be hooked into wanting to uncover what exactly is happening. It’ll have you scratching your head long after the credits roll.
While No Code may be a small team, what they’ve achieved here is huge. With a unique selling point, fantastic attention to detail and a great atmosphere, Observation should be on your radar. A must buy for Sci-Fi fans. It’s up there with one of my favourite games in recent years.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*