With indie games on the rise this year, and with so many being released at the moment; it can sometimes make it quite difficult to find those true diamonds in the rough. Master Reboot is one of those bold titles that attempts to explore a lot of unique ideas and implement a great narrative design, but upon release, would arguably be described as being only half polished. Developed by Wales Interactive, the game provides players with an intriguing “what if” scenario, and is set in the near future where death is no longer final, but instead, a mere stepping stone to immortality as your soul is uploaded to the Soul Cloud. Essentially, this serves as a digital haven for your memories and life events and can be re-lived over and over by both yourself and your family for eternity.
Master Reboot has been labeled a psychological adventure horror game, and whilst it adequately lives up to both the psychological and horror genres, it would appear that all the adventure influences have gone astray. Instead, the segments that would have been perceived as “adventure” have been replaced with linear pathways that provide no genuine exploration of the digital world. However, with that being said, the world does have its moments, especially when you are introduced to Seren.exe, the Soul Clouds antiviral program that has manifested itself into a young girl. Essentially, it is after you because it perceives you as a threat to the system.
The presentation of Master Reboot is captivating, with the overall world design looking very “Alice Through The Looking Glass” meets “M.C. Escher”, with a splash of “Tron”. It sounds like a mad jumble of art styles, but it somehow manages to balance them out perfectly to throw players into a world of awe and wonder. With that being said, the game does suffer from some repetition, with some visuals looking completely out of place, or not drawn to the high standard that the rest of the game offers. This is disappointing as it can often break the immersion that this psychological adventure horror game is trying to deliver. The soundtrack is composed quite well at the beginning of the game, with haunting violin refrains and the shuffling of feet making you wary about turning every corner out of fear that Seren.exe will be there to pounce out and get you. However, after awhile the repeating sounds can become quite frustrating and spoil the build up to the jump scare tactics that are used.
Master Reboot does have an occasional stroke of genius, which is clearly evident when players are tasked with finding all the blue ducks that are scattered throughout the levels of the Soul Cloud. To clarify, each of the blue ducks that can be located throughout the game is actually a memory, which fortunately provides a greater sense for the story and direction and adds an incredibly quirky art style that differs from the rest of the game. Whether it’s a mini comic book styled memory or online chat logs, players will slowly begin to learn more about the main character’s personality, and all about how her life progressed, and ultimately, came to an end. On a positive note, the presentation also gets a thumbs up from me for using a lot of variation between each level as it helps to keep the gameplay flowing and interesting. In my opinion, the mix of environments brings about a nice change from the norm, with some environments being giant puzzles that must be solved in order to progress, and others utilising a sneaky approach, where you must adapt to avoid Seren.exe while she scouts hallways looking for you.
Master Reboot was on track to deliver a truly revolutionary gameplay concept, but unfortunately fails to produce once you progress into the latter half of the game. Regrettably, this is where it all begins to fall into a convoluted mess of half formed ideas, and sadly, there are simply too many immersion breaking mechanics that spoil the clever opening sequences. With that said, it still deserves recognition for those initial ideas, which include well designed puzzle elements, successful jump scares and some wonderful environmental storytelling. In my opinion, Master Reboot has the potential for a sequel, and here is hoping that Wales Interactive can dig deep to produce a genuinely polished diamond that could one day set the standard for other indie games of the same genre.