by Michael Dale
reviewed on PC
Dead Synchronicity is vile. What you witness playing the game and interacting with the world within it is uncompromising in its darkness. And it is so dark, that I wish that the game could create meaningful content that bolsters it. Instead, it is content to bring forth original ideas and back them up with bad game design.
The game casts you as Michael, a man who wakes up with amnesia to discover that the world has gone to complete and utter hell. An event known as The Great Wave wiped out all of the world’s power, communication and infrastructure. In its place, the military has declared martial law and have created prison camps in which they house the numerous surviving citizens who have broken the law.
This is the start of the game’s descent into a morally repugnant world that frankly would have been better off if the apocalypse killed everyone. Some of the survivors have contracted a new disease and are called The Dissolved because they slowly but surely melt down until nothing remains of them. The son of the man who rescues you is one such victim of the disease, and he tasks you with finding some way to help the boy as payback. Along the way you’ll help out most of the other citizens of the camp, some of whom have worse intentions and motivations than they let on.
The dark story and world is a major appeal to the game for me. When it explores situations where there is no right or wrong answer, Dead Synchronicity creates an engaging experience the likes of which most other adventure games won’t even think about touching due to the subject matter. Of course, that’s when the game finishes and completes the character storylines and plot threads it unravels throughout the game. Oftentimes the tasks given to you by characters will be impossible to finish, even if you know what the answer for the task is and are actively trying to complete said task. If you need to talk to a man in the camp to finish a quest, you will be unable to interact with him at all. The absence of closure for many character arcs creates a hollow feeling, as I am unable to finish the investment I made when I started to care about the characters.
What’s worse is that the main plot of the game ends. Not just in an ending or in a To Be Continued screen, but ends with little resolution to the main story and seems to come completely out of nowhere. Calling it a ending would be kind, as Dead Synchronicity more appropriately stops midway through the plot and remains unfulfilled.
Which is a shame, as the style of the world is very attractive and eye-catching. The thick drawn lines coupled with the varying shades of red used in the background evokes dread and despair, showing that the world has not finished its death throes. I was reminded of minimalistic comic book art as I played the game, and the animation detail deserves praise for how kinetic and emotional it makes the action sequences feel.
Don’t touch the light
As a point and click adventure game, Dead Synchronicity falls under many of the tropes present in the genre. You click on objects in the gameworld to interact with them, possibly picking them up and placing them in your inventory. Standard fare, but the puzzles themselves often feature mind-bogglingly stupid logic. If you need to light a dark area of the game, you cannot take a lantern off the wall in any of the rooms because you don’t want to make that room dark, even though its daylight. There are no hints to the puzzles in the game, and it fails to indicate a proper order or progression to complete the puzzles, leaving you stuck at a puzzle that cannot be solved because you have to figure out which other locations have puzzles that need to be completed.
It’s a frustrating situation. Thankfully the game is short enough that it doesn’t take more than a few hours to complete. If it were any longer I would have quit the game out of despair over the puzzles. But at least the story would have been finished in that case.
The slow, decaying end of the world coupled with a point and click adventure game should be a combination that could explore some very heavy emotional storylines. Dead Synchronicity does so quite well at first, delving into the tragic backstories of its characters and exploring a dystopian world that feels simultaneously alien and familiar while you wander through it. Those good first impressions eventually fall to the wayside however, as the game abandons plot threads on a dime and fails to create any form of logical progression in its puzzles. Which is a shame, because Dead Synchronicity has good ideas; they just don’t sync today.
Great art direction, interesting premise
No resolution in story, frustrating puzzles