TITLE: Master Reboot
DEVELOPER: Wales Interactive
GENRE: Psychological Horror and Puzzle Game
PLATFORM: PC via Steam
PRICE: $14.99 via Steam
RELEASE DATE: October 29, 2013
While looking through a list of indie horror games not too long ago, I came across a link to a game called Master Reboot. I had never heard of the game or the company behind it, Wales Interactive, and was curious to find out more about it. Once I saw that the game had already been released around Halloween, I really wanted to give it a try. Since Nerdy But Flirty was easily able to obtain a review copy, I finally got to sit down recently and play through it (in fact, you can see the initial 70 minutes or so of my play in the video included with this review).
The game is set sometime in the near-future (based on dates given in-game) where one’s memories and experiences can all be uploaded into a server structure called the Soul Cloud. The Soul Cloud is designed to house one’s memories to relive while alive and to alleviate some of the pains of death. Likenesses of someone whose memories were uploaded into the Soul Cloud can be virtually visited by friends and loved ones from the “real world,” making it so that death seems a bit less final for humans. The game’s story isn’t thrust at the player in some long and drawn out introductory sequence like many games thrive on, but instead, the game unceremoniously drops you off in a strange and ethereal landscape of sand and wrecked train cars within the Soul Cloud itself, leaving your then-unnamed player character to explore and piece together what is going on.
Strange and ethereal is a very good way to describe this game. It’s extremely different from games in the vein of the Amnesia or Dead Space series, presenting you with a virtual landscape that looks more like some horrific version of Tron than anything else. Locations in the game are created based on memories from either yourself or others, yet they seem disjointed and hallucinogenic – perhaps like a dream seems once the dreamer has awakened from it. The only parallel based on my experiences I can draw to this game is of another odd game called The Void, but this is perhaps a good thing.
Master Reboot is a game that’s mostly about exploration and problem solving. In some ways, it reminds me of Myst in this regard. Once you get past the introductory areas, you are given quite a few choices in what areas (or memories) you wish to travel to next. Little guidance is given to you as to what you need to do, so it ultimately boils down to exploring each area to the best of your ability and solving different puzzles as they are presented to you. Some puzzles are easy to get past, and others require looking for well-hidden objects, trying things you haven’t tried in previous scenarios before, or some trial and error in order to get the correct solution. In short, though, you really need to explore every nook of the game in order to find hidden messages and rubber duckies (yes, you read that right – there are blue rubber duckies that contain memories which are directly pertinent to the story), all while carefully avoiding hidden dangers.
“Death” in the game is a fairly transient thing. Being defeated in some way (snatched by a dangerous enemy or falling beyond the boundaries of the area) usually simply results in you being respawned at the start of your area, and generally you keep any items or keys you’ve already found. You don’t obtain any weapons in the game (outside of a couple tools you can use, such as an ax, to remove obstacles), so your best bet for survival is staying away from dangerous things, running away when you can, and fighting back via any on-screen prompts to do so.
While the atmosphere itself is dark, strange, and creepily other-worldly, the game is littered with rather disturbing messages and several jump-scares. There’s a creepy girl who pursues you in the various memories who has blue LEDs for eyes; sometimes she simply watches you or pesters you from a distance, while at other times she jumps out of a hidden hole to try and grab you. Her true nature is revealed later in the game, as is yours, and I’ll avoid posting any spoilers here regarding it.
The game isn’t the longest game ever (it can be beaten in just a few hours), but many have complained that the ending and the final area leaves a bit to be desired. Indeed, while most of the game is a series of cat-and-mouse chases from things that have it in for you, detailed exploration, and puzzle-solving, the final area is instead more of a platforming puzzle than anything else. This seems a tad uncharacteristic given the nature of most of the game (“most,” because yes, there is some platforming in a few areas), and the ending may not quite live up to what you would expect. But, that being said, everyone has different tastes and some may be quite happy with how things wrap up, just as others won’t mind a rather jarring transition to a jumping puzzle at the game’s conclusion.
At the end of the day, Wales Interactive has succeeded in making a very unique, psychologically chilling experience for players to go through. In many ways, it is more of an “experience” than anything else. It really lends itself to a cinematic style, and is the type of game that could be enjoyed almost as much simply by watching a high-quality playthrough on YouTube.
If you’re a fan of horror games, puzzle games, or games requiring a decent amount of exploration, for the price tag offered, Master Reboot is a worthwhile purchase.