How can one sum up the experience of Observation in a sentence? It’s like The Cloverfield Paradox but good? It has all the tension of Alien without the haunted house vibe? Can leave you scratching your head in a DAFAQ Space Odyssey kinda way? They all work yet can only give off a slight presence as to what you actually get by playing the game. Observation is a Narrative driven Puzzle based game which sees you on the Space Station Observation in the near future. A strange event has caused it to lose all power and have issues with its orbit. It is here we are introduced to the games main character Dr. Emma Fisher as she begins to address the player as Sam. Sam or System Administration and Maintenance is the ships A.I. yes you read that right, it is a space horror game where you play as the Stations A.I. overseeing all that you can. After some strange lights and noises everything blacks out as you lose power, find your memory banks damaged and for some reason you have transported the ship to Saturn where it isn’t supposed to be.
That is the first 5 minutes of the game, everything the game wants you to know about the story and mystery therein is presented straight up off the bat. The pacing in Observation is for lack of a better word; perfect. The story is constantly moving forward but not in a way that is hard to keep up with, questions arise and get answered only leaving you hanging when it needs to dial up tension or play something into the greater mystery. Plot and story telling are among the highlights of Observation however with this being said the ending may come off unsatisfying to some, I really liked with its less is more approach to telling it’s tale but the build up is better than the pay off which is a shame.
Observation is a great game to look at earning some mad props to No Code for creating a game that looks as good as Observation looks for the budget it was made on. The main colour themes through out the games play time change from a white and blue to a black and grey almost sepia colour palette which creates a beautiful safety with a lingering sense that something isn’t right to pop the tension off with that uncanny valley effect sepia can give off with its nostalgic vibes.
The games biggest flaw for me was controlling the AI Sam and the learning curve that comes with it. While it is never bad it does become rather sluggish. Throughout the beginning of the game its rather simple Five Nights at Freddy’s camera switching gameplay allows you to explore and get a feel for the Space Station you are stranded in. While in this mode will be zooming in and out to read signs to figure out logic puzzles, scanning objects and opening doors it all works simply enough press R2 to scan followed by X to open, touch pad to quick jump all over the Observation etc. The problems come when you get control of drones to explore everywhere in the ship you couldn’t before and even stroll through space in some very cool set pieces. The drones are sluggish mostly allowing you to move in XYZ Axis’ meaning you need to slowly course correct in what feels like tank controls. This wouldn’t be so bad but you can look around in normal sleek and speedy fashion often leaving you disorientated more over leaving you lost in the vacuum of space.
Ultimately Observation is a game that is best going in as blind as you can as it is one of the ones where talking too much will ruin the experience. The bottom line is play it, aside from some clunky controls it is one of the best games you probably missed so far this year. Observation is all about narrative fire and foremost it is driven by the mystery surrounding it and its quick pace keeps up with all the thrilling events yet allows the player to explore while leaving its secrets behind a curtain until they need to be revealed. Skips the Let’s Play as Observation is a force that deserves to be experienced first hand.
Zombie was provided with an advanced copy of Observation to review on the Playstation 4.