Dead Synchronicity mixes classic point and click gameplay with a mature dystopian setting. But, does it craft a compelling combination?
A post-apocalyptic world isn't exactly the most original setting for a video game, but Dead Synchronicity does have some interesting and unique elements that set it apart. A chain of natural disasters known as the Great Wave has destroyed all communications and energy sources thus plunging the world into chaos. Simultaneously, an epidemic starts to spread that turns people into "the dissolved", a hideous affliction that eats away at their bodies until they completely disappear. You play as Michael, a man who awakens with no memory and no understanding of the world around him. It's up to you to recover his identity and try to halt the impending moment of Dead Synchronicity, when time itself will dissolve.
One of the most immediately striking aspects of Dead Synchronicity is its art style. The backgrounds are richly detailed and suitably morose while the characters are cartoony and rather bizarre looking. It's an odd mix that's a little jarring, but one that I suppose fits with the disjointed state of Michael's mind and the world at large.
The story is well told using Michael's amnesia as a vehicle to gradually introduce and explain new aspects of the world to the player while still maintaining an overall sense of mystery. You can complete some objectives in different orders but apart from that, the narrative is linear. You're given a couple of seemingly important dialogue choices to make along the way, but things turn out the same regardless. The ending itself is also rather abrupt and a bit of a letdown when compared to the rest of the story. It deserved a better payoff.
However, Dead Synchronicity's main problem is how difficult it can be to progress. This is usually because the solutions you need to figure out are incredibly obscure, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous. Whenever you enter a new area, you'll be able to investigate certain hotspots on the screen. It's advisable to investigate all of them because sometimes a key object you'll need can be hidden in one and only comes to light after Michael has looked at it. You'll be able to pick up some of these objects and add them to your inventory then you'll generally need to use them on a hotspot somewhere else to progress. This is fine when it makes sense, which it sometimes does, but some of the solutions are practically impossible to solve logically. For example, using an old car seat on a window, using coins to undo screws on the opposite side of the map to where you find them, or giving a gun to a mentally challenged and vulnerable young woman. Hardly intuitive actions.
I got stuck for long periods while playing and eventually had to resort to using a walkthrough on several occasions. Otherwise, I would probably never have finished it. Tough puzzles in these kinds of games are great when they make logical sense and can realistically be figured out. When they don't, they're just frustrating and sadly that's often the case here. Another issue is that both you and your cursor move very slowly which makes going back and forth to try new objects in certain areas a finger-tapping bore. You can use the PlayStation 4 controller's touchpad to move the cursor faster, but that isn't exactly user-friendly.
You can get a lot of playtime out of Dead Synchronicity. Unfortunately, most of that time will be spent slowly walking through its handful of environments, vainly trying to use different items on different objects in the hope that something will happen and trigger the next event in the story. Playing this kind of game with a walkthrough kills the feeling of achievement for figuring out its puzzles but sadly, that's the only realistic way most people will be able to complete it. It's a shame because its world has a lot of potential.
- + Well-realised dystopian setting
- + Some nice hand-drawn art
- + A genuine sense of mystery in the narrative
- - Many puzzle solutions make very little sense
- - You and your cursor move too slowly
- - You'll be bored and stuck for ages without resorting to reading a guide