Let’s all take a moment to remember the ’90s. It was a golden age where Cheez TV reigned supreme, NSYNC became popular, and adventure games were still mass produced. Games like The Curse of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Myst were birthed in the same decade, one where point n’ click games didn’t need to be obtuse to be entertaining. Fast forward to now and games like Life is Strange, Metal Dead and Dead Synchronicity are all bringing the glorious ’90s mentality back, but only the latter truly feels like something from that era. Dead Synchronicity is a game that feels like something from an age gone by, and that’s a damn good thing.
Before I get ahead of myself (which I undoubtedly will), I need to emphasise that the game isn’t quite done yet. The game is due for release in April, so some of the stuff that’ll be in the final game is still missing. I doubt much will change between now and when the game comes out apart from a few bugs getting fixed and the addition of voice-overs, but I’ve been wrong about stuff before. Maybe they’ll add in robot sharks. It’s possible! With that in mind, this is not a comprehensive review of the game and is more of a sneak peek than anything else… So, what is it?
Dead Synchronicity is a point n’ click adventure game set in a dystopian future where people are… Uh… Dissolving. Figuratively and literally. Humanity has been pushed to the brink by a mysterious affliction, and everyone who still survives is, as you’d expect, messed up or doing the messing. It’s a dark story of a world where morals are no longer relevant, certainly not something you’d let a six year-old play to learn new words. There’s a bit more to the story, but I decided to stop playing before I convinced myself this was a review. It’ll entice anyone who likes Fallout or Wasteland and maybe pleasantly surprise them. Of course, the story wouldn’t work nearly as well without the fantastic art style of the game.
The aesthetic really helps set the tone and is one of the strongest parts of the game. The backgrounds look smudged and grimy, perfect for the decrepit hell-hole you’re stuck adventuring in. The characters themselves don a minimalist style that gets the idea across but leaves enough room for imagination (whether you want it there or not). It also means all the characters stand out against the backdrop, contrasting their desperation and depression against the bleak world surrounding them. The items you need to find don’t get quite the same treatment, however.
My main gripe with Dead Synchronicity wasn’t anything to do with solving puzzles with irrelevant objects, it was finding the items in the first place. Because nothing in the background stands out, nothing is obviously relevant to pick up or examine. This in itself isn’t a bad thing though; it’s a point n’ click puzzler, not an objective driven cakewalk. It’s part of what made the old ’90s games so frustrating, but also forced you to explore with your cursor, and Dead Synchronicity is no different. Once you manage to find the puzzle pieces though, everything falls into place… Unless it doesn’t.
So far, the puzzles I’ve encountered have been pretty reasonable, but I inevitably hit a couple walls. In true ’90s style, I once sat at my monitor for an hour trying to nut out a solution but instantly got it the next morning. The satisfaction of finding a solution has never felt like a cop out though, since every solution has been logical enough for me to agree with but odd enough to feel smart at. If you’re impatient, there isn’t a hint system, but that could just as easily change. Perhaps what is most striking about the game is it’s maturity, something point n’ click games aren’t renowned for.
When discussing games like Metal Dead or Deponia, maturity is brought up as often as clavicle disfigurement. Dead Synchronicity is a little different in this regard because it deals with such heavy subject matter. Suicide, rape, murder, just to name a few of the various themes that might warrant a trigger warning of some kind. The game can certainly shock at times, but it doesn’t trivialise your actions either, so nothing seems like a cheap shock tactic. There’s a genuine concern over the horrors in the world, and while you can justify your actions, the struggle to accept that justification is what makes it more than a 14 year-old’s indulgence in gore.. And I need to stop before I turn this into something more than just impressions!
Overall, Dead Synchronicity is looking like an unexpected gem. It plays like something transported straight from the ’90s but touched up to compete with the modern crowd. The story appeals to my dark perversity while still maintaining maturity, and the puzzles haven’t been off-putting. Only time will tell if the addition of voice-overs or whatever else is left will enhance or detract from the game. I’d keep my eyes on this one if I were you, because I definitely am.