PN Review: Master Reboot
Master Reboot is a fascinating first-person horror game with a heavy science fiction slant. The adventure takes place in the “Soul Cloud” where memories of the dying are uploaded to powerful servers. This way people can live on (in part) in a digital sense, with remembrances going on indefinitely as loved ones revisit precious times. It’s an intriguing futuristic story to say the least, whose puzzling details are slowly revealed at a good pace. In fact I’d say the mysterious sci-fi theme makes for a terrific download that’s as much an experience as it is a game.
An unsettling atmosphere pervades over Master Reboot. There’s a true sense of secrecy and wonder, as you try to crack the nut that is the Soul Cloud. Navigating through stored memories in a system where something is quite obviously off is creepy but addictive. The game keeps you on edge through several means, and jump scares are an always lingering threat. Like a good book though, you’ll want to keep going just a bit more to see what will happen next. This is a tale of technology gone mad!
The heart of the gameplay consists of puzzles, as you explore for items and try to solve brain teasers to advance the story. They aren’t overly difficult, but there are some creative solutions to otherwise straightforward tasks. Some of the more infamous style puzzles do appear (maze and tone types) but they’re thankfully brief enough to not annoy. The puzzles are spread across memories (stages) and the game excels with just the right amount of gameplay variety. The Childhood memory literally takes a page out of Alice Through the Looking Glass, emphasizing exploration from a tiny perspective. The Flying Memory is a thing of nightmares, emphasizing caution, patience and stealth! Certain memories are more action oriented, and I’ll expound on this in a bit.
Master Reboot displays some fantastic graphics! It has a unique visual style reflective of a computer program gone haywire! The ever so slight distortions make me envision a 3D version of the PC classic Day of the Tentacle, and that is a great thing! There is so much diversity on display here – colorful when appropriate, bursting with details when fitting, and with tons of cool touches tucked everywhere. I couldn’t wait to see what each new, inventive locale had to show me – there’s so much creativity on display! The animations and lighting expertly add to the spooky atmosphere. Seeing the games central hub grow from a simple means of advancement to an area full of items from finished memories is a cool touch. Other than some hard to read documents when using Off-TV play, occasional images that conflict with the graphic style (cartoon picture cut scenes, random glowing strange symbols) and a few very minor framerate stutters, I have no complaints with these imaginative visuals!
The soundtrack for Master Reboot ranges from chilling to downright beautiful depending on what’s taking place. Some of these tunes will stay with you after beating the game. The tracks are used very effectively, with some areas having considerable music while others do so sporadically with more emphasis on the sound effects. The latter will creep you out, with plenty of environmental sfx to keep the hair on the back of your neck upright. More terrifying are those coming from rarely seen other visitor(s) in the Soul Cloud. Footsteps in the fog, garbled voices around you, whispers at your back, shrieks in the distance, etc! Normally if a game is muted it’s because the audio is bad, but here it’s the opposite – it’s good enough to make you consider muting it due to jitters! Well timed sfx contribute immensely to scary games, and Master Reboot uses them terrifically. The entire audio package is of the highest quality, and a brilliant compliment – Wales Interactive has nailed this important aspect!
Control is fine the vast majority of the time, with the Pro Controller being supported along with the GamePad. I had no issues maneuvering the camera, running, jumping, ducking, or interacting with objects. All are mapped well, and responsive. An effective tutorial teaches what you need to know. You can even configure the sensitivity, or invert the controls to your liking! There aren’t any touch screen controls, but none are needed. The one control concern that I had (which also relates to level design) is during the aforementioned action oriented parts …
These action elements are probably the biggest areas that could use improvements. I found they tended to break up the flow, with curious design and slightly sluggish control that wasn’t always satisfying. Whether it was trying to platform upwards through a rain storm with rapidly rising water and poor visibility, or trying to run and jump across a crumbling runway before a plane crashes into it, these scenes often boiled down to more trial and error rather than precise platforming. The fairground memory is another example – it’s primarily a shooting gallery, yet I actually had to point the cross hair to the side in order to hit the target? There are several other instanced where collision detection is off. This uneven design stands out even more since Wales did so well with the adventure and puzzle aspects. The action parts would benefit from some fine tuning.
Master Reboot has a degree of nonlinearity. You can select among several available memories and play through them in any order. You can also exit a memory if it’s too difficult at the moment or too scary (don’t play the library at night!) The game also has replay value, as most memories have several collectables, which appear as blue ducks. Upon completing you can see how many you’ve collected and how many remain. They consist of various things – pictures, notes, newspaper clippings, etc. Some of them are very difficult to find, and will have you scouring every corner! There is a point of no return toward the end however, where you lose the chance to go back. Having some sort of New Game + mode would’ve been nice. As an unexpected touch however, this is a nice way to give extra reason to return and play again. It speaks to the games enjoyment and quality that as soon as we beat the it, we fired it up once more to start again!
I’m thrilled when games turn out better than I expected, and Master Reboot caught me by surprise, exceeding nearly all expectations! There is so much more I could talk about, but I’ve well exceeded my space limit already. I’ll sum up by stating the obvious – buy this game! Master Reboot not only does most everything right, but goes that extra mile! This could very well turn out to be one of the most memorable Wii U games I’ve played. As it stands now it’s one of my favorites, eShop or otherwise, and definitely among the best Wii U games released this year!