Mankind has always been fascinated with the idea of immortality and billions have already been poured into research to attain this lofty goal. In the world of Master Reboot, the Mysteri Foundation has cracked the secret to digital immortality by finding a way to store human memories and consciousness in a "Soul Cloud." Friends and family can visit their departed loved ones in the cloud and relive their favorite memories with them. The technology is embraced by everyone but needless to say something goes terribly wrong.
Usually when I start a new game I generally know more or less what is in store for me but sometimes it is nice to go into something blind. Master Reboot is a game that appealed to me because of the unique visual style that it employs and its rather intriguing premise but I was not sure what to expect from it gameplay wise. After a rather jarring arrival in the Soul Cloud it became apparent that the protagonist might not be too welcome in the virtual reality dreamworld and their stay is going to be anything but a pleasant trip down memory lane.
Master Reboot delights in throwing you into tense situations without any hand holding or explanations. The whole game has a very dreamlike atmosphere and the virtual reality aspect enabled the artists to really play around with your expectations and surroundings. As you progress through the game you access different memories with each one being a self contained area based around a certain theme or gameplay mechanic. One memory involves dodging incoming traffic in your car whilst listening to the radio while the next is a tense game of cat and mouse aboard a creepy airplane. Each memory is accessed from a central hub and represented by a door with a name of the memory but the fact that you never know what is going to happen next or what might be expected of you makes the game very gripping.
Scattered throughout the levels are glowing blue rubber ducks which contain messages that the living left for the inhabitants of the Soul Cloud. For your character these ducks contain clues about the story and are well worth seeking out if you want to understand what is really going on. You can complete the game without finding the ducks but will you will miss out on a lot of interesting facts and probably be left confused so I advise you to take your time and find them for a broader understanding of the rather excellent storyline. Levels are not too big and are enclosed with Assassins Creed style digital barriers so you can't really get lost or wander off into nowhere. It also helps to keep things focused and ensures that you are never at a loss over where to go or what to do next.
One of the highlights of the game is the unique visual style. You view everything from a first person perspective and the overall art direction perfectly conveys the sense of being inside a virtual world. Familiar objects or locations can seem dark and sinister which makes for some very tense situations. Some scenes are breathtaking and wouldn't look out of place framed and hanging on a wall. Here and there the quality falters a bit with some objects not looking as good up close but overall I think the artists did a great job. Some levels felt serene while others gave me goosebumps but while playing one can never shake the feeling that something can happen at any moment. The art style feels like a mixture between Tron, The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell with a dash of Inception making the levels a joy to explore and the developers put the Unreal Development Kit to good use. I encountered a glitch where Alt-Tabbing out of the game and returning resulted in some clipping problems as well as a few crashes during loading screens but nothing that prevented me from completing the game. The bright 2D cut-scenes that are revealed after completing each level is in stark contrast to the moody 3D visuals but actually fit in with the story and offers some nice insights.
The game features no combat (although you do get to whack a few things with a digital axe) so the bulk of your time will be spent exploring your surroundings, collecting objects and solving some puzzles. The puzzles range from rather obvious to rather clever and while I was never stuck for too long it was satisfying solving a few of the trickier ones. During the game you are constantly stalked by a creepy girl with blue LEDS where her eyes should be and a penchant for jumping out and grabbing you when you least expect it. Her name is Seren and she is responsible for most of the jump scares in the game. The already tense and creepy atmosphere is enhanced by some very menacing and disturbing messages that have been left for your character by someone or something that clearly wants to freak you out. Needless to say this is a game best played in the dark with earphones unless you have a weak heart or aversion to jump scares.
I really enjoyed the audio in Master Reboot and it definitely added to the atmosphere of the game. Creeping around a dimly lit hospital is bad enough but hearing all kinds of creepy noises and spooky tunes really dials up the tension. It is also worth noting that the game supports the Welsh language which is something of a first but not surprising from a company called Wales Interactive. There is even an achievement for completing the full game in Welsh which I am tempted to do for my second playthrough. As the game is viewed in first person I had no troubles with the keyboard and mouse controls although things do get a bit arcade-style towards the end with plenty of jumping and sprinting. The game also uses an autosave feature but while you can die the checkpoints are quite reasonable and levels are small enough that they never drag on.
I really enjoyed my time with Master Reboot and can definitely recommend it to players that want to experience something new and out of the ordinary. It has some very unique ideas and the concept of exploring different memories is well implemented. It is a single player only experience and very story driven but I am definitely planning on a second playthrough to unravel more of its mysteries and mop up a few more achievements.
TAGS: Master Reboot, Soul Cloud, Mysteri Foundation, Seren,
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