Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Oct 112021
 

During the eShop sale, I picked up Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story, a game which caught my eye back when it was announced and then again when it ran into controversy for no reason that actually make sense.

(I got it for the Switch, but it’s available for other platforms too.)

Although it’s side-scrolling, it’s a survival horror game inspired by the classics, with Fatal Frame being the easiest comparison.

You play a woman named Mei who finds herself trapped in an abandoned apartment building haunted by restless spirits. As you search for a way out, you’ll need to put these spirits to rest through rituals, while finding notes that reveal details about their lives and the tragedy that took place there.

I appreciate that Sense uses inventory-based puzzles for its progression like classic survival horror, but it’s made unfortunately tedious because you often can’t pick up an item until you know you need it.

Instead of finding a key item to backtrack and unlock an area you previously couldn’t access, you’ll find an item you can’t pick up, then eventually find an area you can’t access, backtrack to get the item, and then return to unlock the area. It’s a small difference, but one that makes the experience more tedious. Fortunately, it stops being as common later in the game.

The puzzles themselves are good, aside from one that has its clue in a seemingly-unrelated note that I never would have associated with it if I hadn’t looked it up. A handful of areas also have instant-death situations if you do the wrong thing, which can be frustrating.

Enemies will kill you pretty easily, except that you find bangles that protect you from supernatural power. You can only carry a couple at a time, but having one means an enemy attack will shatter it instead of killing you.

It’s a good system that adds a lot of tension without feeling unfair. After a certain point, the game also introduces combat… but it’s really not designed for combat. Combat comes down to interact with an enemy to either stun it or swing your weapon in a rather awkward-feeling system, and it’s infrequent enough that the game probably would have been better off without it.

Saves are limited through use of tapes you can play at TVs. However, your first playthrough also gives you a quick save option and auto-saves. Subsequent playthroughs remove those to restrict you to the limited manual saves. There are some secrets and bonuses only found on later playthroughs, as well.

One more thing I probably should mention is the setting. As the name suggests, this game takes place in a cyberpunk future. However, that doesn’t matter as much as you might expect. I enjoyed exploring the apartments and learning more about the story, but the cyberpunk setting affected very little. Come for the ghosts, not for the cyberpunk.

Despite its flaws, Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is a solid take on the survival horror formula. As soon as I finished, I found myself hoping the developers would continue with the genre.

And what do you know? They actually already announced SENSE/s, an anthology series of shorter horror games, with the first one being a 3D survival horror game called SENSE/s: Midnight, due out this year. I’ll be keeping my eye on that for sure!

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  2 Responses to “Celebrating All Things Spooky: Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story”

  1. “Instead of finding a key item to backtrack and unlock an area you previously couldn’t access, you’ll find an item you can’t pick up, then eventually find an area you can’t access, backtrack to get the item, and then return to unlock the area.

    To be fair, I always found it a little jarring in video games that just let you pick up a bunch of random items that you will almost always, definitely be important later, even if at the time it feels like you’re picking up random junk. So I like this idea in theory, even if it adds tedium in practice.

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