Somerville is a hilariously bizarre physics-based puzzle adventure game developed by the former talents who created Playdead’s two modern classics, Limbo and Inside. Yet at the same time, it plays very differently from those products, with an upside-down setting, color palette, character rendering, and a seminal early-’90s classic Out of This World than ever before in Limbo or Inside. reminds me of – Rotation of camera orientation from scene to scene. This was a pleasant surprise, not as polished and thought-provoking as its predecessor, and left us with a very good game, but in the end, it’s a game that we’ve taken a very long time to think about now that it’s finished. I don’t think there is.
Somerville opens in the healthiest way possible. A man, a woman, a young child, and a dog all sat on the sofa in the living room and fell asleep in front of the TV. You rule a man with no name. In fact, I haven’t heard from him or anyone else. Like Limbo, Inside, Out of This World, there is no dialogue. Somerville’s storytelling is entirely visual. Visually, I love what the developer has done with his Jumpship here. All of these characters resemble Impressionist renderings of humans, so the nameless, voiceless heroes are also essentially faceless. Still, the use of color, especially contrast, makes the world pop when it needs to. For example, to silently convey that a yellow dash can interact with an object.
Somerville Game Awards Trailer Gallery
Sound design, on the other hand, works for its minimalism. Aside from a piano soundtrack that’s great for tweaking drama and tension when Somerville’s designers want it, the audio you can hear is our hero’s painful breathing and movements. No matter what happened, he was clearly physically hurt, and the more he stepped into this strange new world, the more pain he felt.
All of this paints a very dark, bleak yet intriguing mystery. The narrative wastes no time in ratcheting up the danger of extraterrestrial objects suddenly filling the sky outside your far-flung cabin in the opening moments. Fascinatingly strange from there.
So Somerville is a little under four hour quest to figure out what happened and is still happening. You must use the new powers of your inexplicably glowing arms to solve physics-based puzzles. Specifically, the light enhanced by the power of the arm. It adds an extra layer to these powers as you progress, but it’s a little thin. That was enough gameplay to keep Somerville out of walking simulator territory, but its puzzles don’t hold you back for more than a few seconds at a time. In fact, what hung me up on was the issue of wrestling with the physics system more than the actual game design.
One reason that puzzle isn’t that complicated is that Somerville keeps its control scheme to a minimum. All you need is a trigger and one face button. I admire its simplicity. 99% of the time, including no interface. I love when the atmospheric world shines unobstructed, especially in moody adventures like this one.
As a dog lover, I was initially delighted by the prospect of having a four-legged wingman, but sadly, your canine companions aren’t here to help, except occasionally subtly point you in the right direction. It is of little use. He doesn’t help with puzzles or gameplay, doesn’t affect the story, and can’t be petted freely. It seems that something should have happened.
Lonely and isolated it may be, but the altered Earth is clean again. This is not a left-to-right stage progression. Move up, down, left and right at different times. In that regard, Somerville does a great job of pushing away what resembles monotony in the short term. That’s largely where the aforementioned Out of This World reminder came from, which was very good. I was always intrigued as to whether they would be able to help me.
However, that freedom can sometimes lead to awkward transitions when moving from one room to the next. The room you are facing may have a different camera angle, which may cause you to travel in the opposite direction and return to where you came from.
But when I made it through, I saw the end credits roll and found a story conclusion that left far more questions than answers. Discuss those questions with a friend around her cooler near the water. It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything, but I can say that the Somerville mystery wasn’t as compelling as I thought.