by Jonathan Fortin
reviewed on PC
The future is...a blue duck?
When you start playing Master Reboot, you won't have any idea what's going on. Dropped onto a strange digital beach, you'll know nothing about who you are playing as, what you're trying to achieve, or why there are so many invisible walls. But it isn't too long before there are clues.
The story, as it develops, is certainly intriguing. The entire game takes place within a computer system known as the Soul Cloud. A server that digitally houses the memories, personalities, and (yes) souls of the dead, the Soul Cloud was created to let people interact with lost loved ones, re-experiencing their memories. But of course, something went wrong with the system, and now a demonic presence has infected your memories like a virus.
As you progress through the game, you unravel the mystery of what happened to the Soul Cloud, while also unlocking your memories and discovering who you are. Memories are represented by blue ducks. It's not really clear why they're blue ducks. That's just how it is.
There's no getting around it: this is a really weird game.
Variety and vibrancy
Master Reboot is a first person adventure that combines exploration, puzzle solving, survival horror, and some rather dodgy platforming.
The game's main hub is filled with doors, and each door leads to a different level. The levels are all based on your character's memories, such as a school or a carnival. Some of them shift into action sequences, like being chased by a giant teddy bear, or jumping across platforms to avoid rising water. Dying just means starting the sequence over again.
The “fragmented memories” structure allows the developers to exercise a lot of creativity and diversity with the environments. While the controls are simple and consistent (move around, jump, and press E to interact), you'll be doing something different in each room. One moment you'll be exploring a too-large nursery, the next you'll be trying to outrun a plane crash. The variety is commendable, especially given the simplicity of the core gameplay.
Unfortunately, the execution is frequently problematic. Far too much of the gameplay boils down to the 3D equivalent of pixel hunting: searching the environment for something the game will let you interact with, then hoping the game will recognize it when you're clicking the action button. You can't choose where to place the objects in your inventory, so there's no room for thought or experimentation—just clicking the action button over and over. Frustratingly, some objects that you must interact with to proceed do not always recognize it when you are activating them, which causes periods of immense frustration as you click them over and over until the game finally realizes what you're doing.
Weird puzzles galore
Many of the game's puzzles are incredibly strange. For example, in a park memory early on in the game, I picked up a red cube. Since the colored shards I needed to collect were floating in the sky, I presumed that I was going to use the cube as a stepping stone of some sort. But after various clicking about I discovered that the cube was meant to be put on a seesaw instead. I was then supposed to activate some nearby rocking horses, which I hadn't been able to interact with until now. Once I'd activated all of them, laser beams shot from their eyes, blowing up a branch and causing it to fall on the seesaw. The red cube was sent up and knocked the colored shard I needed free. I guess I was just supposed to know that those rocking horses could shoot laser beams from their eyes, just like I was supposed to just know that the red cube needed to be put on the seesaw.
The game is full of puzzles like these—the sort that you solve not through logic, but just by clicking on everything you can until something random happens. And the puzzles only get more obtuse as the game goes along. While one could argue that it makes sense to abandon logic given the game's dream-like setting, the result is both linear and nonsensical.
The game also features some incredibly tedious platforming segments. Platforming is always awkward from a first person perspective, and with this game it's no exception. Wales Interactive certainly makes you feel like you're at the mercy of a demonic computer system, but not in the way that's intended.
Atmospheric visual style and soundtrack, interesting story
Extremely unpolished, problematic puzzles, infested with bugs