No Code Games • Devolver Digital Games
Reviewed By A.S. MacKenzie
Ever play a game that you are certain was a game yet when you think back on it, it doesn’t play as a game in your mind, more like a series of memories of an event you experienced?
Well, if you had, then this is the game that would have done it.
Observation was probably the most unique game playing experience I’ve had in many years. Right up there with the first time playing first-person on Castle Wolfenstein or when clicking through the myriad of puzzles in Myst.
The game is set on the International Space Station, but just moments after some power loss event has taken place. You, as the gamer, are introduced to the game as the onboard AI that controls the station having just rebooted and in need of checking systems. And that’s where you stay. No hands, no feet, no weapons, no nothing. Just you, as an AI, checking out systems and switching cameras.
I know I hyped the gameplay above but stick with me. It’s not anywhere near as boring as it sounds.
You discover other astronauts are missing, dead, or outside the station. You have to help discover what happened to them and save who you can, but there’s so much you can’t do as the AI and that is where the game really shines.
As the AI, you also discover that the events just before your reawakening were not caused by anyone on board, but instead by something indefinable. Clue after clue point you to a problem on the planet below.
Oh, yeah, you find out you are WAY off course, but that’s not even the scary part. That comes from the identical space station you see and connect with outside the window. Completely identical. Down to the same astronauts.
Then another space station.
Meanwhile, whatever outside that has caused this to happen wants you, as the AI, to “BRING HER”. A message that flashes across your vision every so often.
The graphics are impeccable and smooth. However, the user interface for you as the AI is outdated, but intentionally so and never feels like anything less than an intentional design to remind you that you are the machine here. Puzzles, clues, and events unfold into a horrific conclusion that is hard to predict.
While the game is short (played it through completely in about six hours), it’s full of darkness, tension, and suspense. This really elevates the sci-fi/horror mashup genre and should give plenty of creative influence to anyone who experiences it.
I’m going to give it a little while before playing it through again, because I’m certain for all the things I did see, there was so much more I didn’t.
Observation is a multi BAFTA-winning (BAFTA Scotland Best Game 2019, BAFTA Best British Game 2020) sci-fi thriller uncovering what happened to Dr. Emma Fisher, and the crew of her mission, through the lens of the station’s artificial intelligence S.A.M.
Players assume the role of S.A.M. by operating the station’s control systems, cameras, and tools to assist Emma in discovering what is happening to the station, the vanished crew, and S.A.M. himself.
A. S. MacKenzie
A. S. MacKenzie is an Atlanta based author who loves all things books, movies, games, and comics. He lives with his wife, spoiled dogs, and an unhealthy obsession with building things. He can be found building worlds in books, building plastic models, or building with wood. Check out his website at asmackenzie.com for ways to join his newsletter and read free stories. Also, he’s been known to frequent Twitter (@a_s_mackenzie) to say something vaguely interesting and Instagram (a.s.mackenzie) for food, travel, and random pics.