Observer is a horror game done by the same team behind Layers of Fear. Did they strike gold twice, or should you stick to other horror games this summer? Check out our Observer review and find out what we thought.
The year is 2084 and the world as we know it has changed. A disease and a great war have ravaged humanity, and now there is one large corporation in charge of almost everything. You play as Detective Daniel Lazarski, an Observer of the Chiron Corporation. You wake up after a nap in your car to a woman’s voice checking up on you. She says she is getting some obscure readings, and she wants you to take your medicine. After you do that, the call is cut off, and a man calls you. You find out that it is your son and you trace the call to locate him. He is staying at a run down apartment complex, and the landlord gives you access to his room. When you get there, you find a dead body – but it’s not your son. Now you are on the case to find out what happened and see if it somehow connected to your child.
Since you are a detective, you have to figure out what happened at every crime scene you come across. The crime scene involves checking out the clues scattered around an area and piecing together what happened. You have a few primary tools for helping with this. One is a bio sensor, and the other is an electronic scanner. You also have a hacking tool, but this is used less frequently. The bio sensor is to find out how someone died or to help you identify someone through their blood. The electronic scanner is used to check out datapads and other psychical objects so you can gain more info on them to help you figure out what was used to kill someone or to help you find out a puzzle. Very early on, you’re locked in a room and need to find a pass code, but the hacking tool only gives you one of the four numbers. With your other tools, you can find the clues needed to escape the room.
The other tool you use is a matrix jack. You take a wire out of your hand and jack into someone neuro chip, so you can see into their subconscious and relive moments of their lives. This was cool at first, but it eventually wore on me. The visions aren’t clear and can be fuzzy, blurry, or full of static, and quite frankly, they become an eye sore. I get the concept; you are looking through someone else’s memories, so they aren’t always clear. However, I also feel like it didn’t have to be as messy as it is here. Something else that happens here are forced stealth sections. What is intended to add to the tension just adds to the annoyance. Nothing ruins a well-paced game like a brick wall of stealth that you have to get through to proceed. The “jacking in” was a cool concept at first, but it got old quickly.
This may be billed as a horror game, but it is a psychological one as well. There are jump scares and loud noises that will catch you off guard, but the real horror comes from the situations and ideas of the game. A whole society is controlled by this corporation, and they have no idea what they are doing. A detective that can go into your mind and see what you see. Not to mention the memories you do see are often creepy in their own right. The humans in the minds are static silhouettes that feel like mindless husks. The creepy baby noises are used for a robot used to get through paths. The constant misdirections that you are fed, only to have a room completely reform. And, of course, the creature that seems to be lurking in the memories of people. It was a much different type of scare than that of Layers of Fear, one I feel was for the better.
There is another element you have to take into account – the effect going into peoples minds has on Lazarski. When you leave a mind, your sync level is low, which affects your vision and scanning tools. To fix this, you need to use the Syncrozine to fix yourself back up. I actually tried to not take one at first, but it made the casework a bit more difficult than I expected. I assumed if you hadn’t used it for awhile you would get a game over, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Observer is a good psychological horror game with some minor road blocks that ultimately hold it back. Still, if you are looking for a horror game this summer, you could do far worse.