Originally released back in April on the PC, Dead Synchronicity is a welcome throwback to the point and click adventure days of the past. There’s been a reasonable amount of these ports onto the PS4 over its life; another is always appreciated. It’s unique and engaging visual style, mature themes and of course, its Kickstarter success, all point towards a promising start. Can it compare to the classics in its field and stand out on its own, or will it be reserved just for fans of the genre?
The story follows Michael, a man who remembers nothing of his past, to an extent where he even relies upon a strange vision in order to assume his name. Regaining consciousness after the mysterious ‘Great Wave’, your main point of interest will be attempt to figure out what caused this devastating chain of ruin, and just how far it’s spread. Coinciding with this, a horrific contagion has spread out too, causing people to turn into ‘the Dissolved’. In keeping with tradition within the genre, learning more about the tragic events, their repercussions, and your past, will inevitably involve doing people some favours.
And that’s where we begin, with your apparent, and shifty, saviour. He’s got a request involving his son’s sensitive condition; where lo and behold, you get to involuntarily volunteer to help. Searching your way around the free-roam setting quickly reveals the level of mature themes and dark undertones Dead Synchronicity liberally explores. The depressive, dreary visuals in each area help cement this further. You’ll, at times, encounter brutal treatment of both yourself and others, whilst also incorporating some fairly shocking scenes that aren’t particularly suited for the faint of heart. Despite the homages, Monkey Island this is not.
The narrative itself starts out strong, with each new character you encounter having their own divisive issues. Despite there being no shortage of, borderline evil, figures of authority for you to detest, there’s no single antagonist here. Rather instead, the conspiratorial ‘Great Wave’ and its origins and impact on the world are your main focus. Unfortunately, the more intriguing the storyline and its cast of ancillary characters become, lesser and less emphasis is placed upon them, and more on the increasingly obtuse puzzles.
Starting off predictably easy, none of the initial puzzles should pose much of a problem, especially in comparison to some other games of its type. In any other game, picking up every nonsensical item you can lay your hands on wouldn’t exactly be encouraged. Here, it’s a necessity. Remember that bit of your own tooth you picked up off the floor? Yea you’ll be using that in a pretty strange way later on…
On top of the puzzle solving shenanigans you’ll put yourself through, there’s also plenty conversation to engage in too, although sadly this is more of a double edged blade. The sheer amount of dialogue on offer is great, what with each character offering their own insight and views on proceedings, whilst also contributing to the plot with snippets here and there. The downside being that the English voice work isn’t exactly fluid or emotive. It sounds stilted, forced and generally comes across as awkward. Unfortunately, that doesn’t just extend to the NPC’s either, the titular Michael also suffers the same unnatural fate.
As is tradition of late for point and click console ports, the transition holds up quite well. The left stick moves the pointer, whilst the directional buttons allow you to cycle through the available, on-screen, selections. Thankfully, you’re able to highlight any and all choices too, eliminating the pixel hunt and letting you exercise your abstract-thinking lobe. If that doesn’t seem to be working out for you, there’s always the tried and tested method of opening the inventory and attempting to combine everything in there with everything else, it worked back in Broken Sword, and it still works today!
The stylised visuals really play towards Dead Synchronicities strengths. Bleak browns and dull coloured tones litter the game for the most part, and fit in with the generally apocalyptical setting. Bold reds adorn the more striking sections, whilst the more important, plot-relevant moments are presented in something more akin to an animated comic book panel. Simply put, it looks fantastic.
Whilst the gameplay and graphics are mostly top-notch, the length of Dead Synchronicity does leave a little to be desired. Considering the monumental plot revelations, and a puzzle instance that has been built up from the very start, to say it ended on a cliff-hanger would be a grave understatement. The mature themes and its distinct art style, combined with its classic genre, do bring with it, a fresh feel however; I can’t wait for a next instalment.