I discovered the new game from the creator of Limbo, Somerville

Game News I discovered the new game from the creator of Limbo, Somerville

The co-founder of the Playdead studio (Limbo, Inside) is releasing a new game called Somerville and planned for the Xbox Game Pass. I played there for a few hours.

How I longed to get my hands on Somerville. After leaving the Playdead studio somewhere in 2017, co-founder Dino Patti unveiled this new project under development at the premises of Jumpship, its new flagship. The creator of the very cult Limbo had only shared a few snippets of images. Until now, I didn’t know much about the game, except that it depicts a sci-fi universe in the aftermath of a disaster. In the shoes of a father, the challenge is to reconstitute your family during a narrative experience that takes place in a rural landscape that seemed to me to be quite fabulous. And even if the images may suggest it, Dino Patti ensures that the experience will not be anything like Inside-like. Even on Steam, the information surrounding the game remains quite nebulous: “Our commitment is to bring unique experiences that treat people with respect and help extend the meaning of the concept of interactive media”. Can’t wait to find out how the last part of this sentence applies. There are still some details that were dropped by a gameplay video released a few months earlier: we know that our protagonist will have to manipulate the lights to release extraterrestrial materials. Using light to defend yourself has a little Alan Wake side to it that I really like.

Halftone experience

So here I am, joystick in hand, discovering Somerville. First sequence: a father, a mother, a little boy and a dog are asleep on their couch. Only the glow of the TV illuminates the living room. But outside, strange purple waves are agitated and presage the beginning of a catastrophe which will very quickly disturb the family cocoon. Surprise, it is in the skin of the little boy that we take our first steps. A small, short-lived subtlety that, we hope, portends great game design ideas. The child does what is expected of him, in other words, he wreaks havoc and wakes his dear parents with alarming cries as he accidentally falls into the kitchen trash can. Then the story accelerates: huge alien ruins crash to the ground, mother and son disappear and the father wakes up alone in the basement of the house with the dog (already my favorite character). Ah, let’s add that he also inherited a rather strange power which seems to amplify the sources of light he finds and which he collected by brushing past an equally strange dying character crushed by the ruins. So many strange circumstances (again) that set a framework that I particularly like. But what is really striking with the first minutes of this experience is the sound design. Nobody speaks, there is very little music, but every action takes place in a huge crash. There is immense care given to the sound effects which alone make up the particular atmosphere of the title, which can also count on licked shots.

As promised, it is therefore a question of manipulating the lights to free oneself from environmental puzzles. Very simple mechanics to assimilate. There are still issues though: the handling is frankly not pleasant, the perspectives remind me of the difficulties I had already encountered on Little Nightmares and the game really lacks intuitiveness. In one hour of play, I have still made too little progress; mainly because I couldn’t perfectly position my character quickly enough to manipulate such an object, or simply because I didn’t know which mechanism to approach to move the story forward. For a first experience in this highly enticing universe, I would have liked to be better guided. As I speak to you, I am about to dive back into a part of the game where I have been stuck for long minutes. I am ready to persevere for Dino Patti, for this atmosphere so attractive and then to discover if wife and child were kidnapped by a flying saucer or cowardly abandoned me in the cellar of my house. See you later.

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