Wales Interactive’s puzzle horror Master Reboot is set in the near future where technology called the Soul Cloud enables the memories and personalities of the deceased to be uploaded, preserving them indefinitely. Loved ones can visit Soul Cloud residents for short periods of time, meaning death is no longer goodbye. But there’s a problem. Memories have been corrupted and it’s your job to fix them. This is done by solving puzzles, finding objects, occasional platforming, and trying to escape giant cyber teddy bears. No, really.
Memories begin in childhood and go through school and university to bit-by-bit reveal the creation of the Soul Cloud and the identities of the game’s characters. Each area has a unique look and feel to it and the creepy, chilling atmosphere and audio really stands out. You’ll often be nervously looking over your shoulder hoping that the Cloud’s relentless security system Seren isn’t coming after you. Here’s a tip: she is.
Memories are chosen from a central hub which fills with objects and information as you progress. The levels mostly play out with you wandering different places, like a school or fairground, trying to find your way out or solving puzzles. Some puzzles just involve looking around and finding things but others are trickier and make you feel super smug once you’ve figured them out. The second part to each level is surreal and dream-like, as if a case of ‘we need to go deeper’, and quite often sees you running to or away from something. These are the more annoying parts of Master Reboot as precision is needed and the controls can be a little unresponsive. They’re not game-breaking, but you’ll need to be on the ball with any crouching or button presses.
There’s an impressive amount of creativity gone into this game. Talented artists have produced charming cartoon cutscenes, beautiful, if not a little disturbing, paintings, and the team have completely nailed haunting environments. Whether searching a school or an aeroplane, there’s a prickly feeling of dread. It’s not Amnesia scary – you probably won’t lose any sleep over it – but you might jump at seeing your own shadow out of the corner of your eye after playing.
Master Reboot is at its best when it’s being subtle. When the scares ramp up it loses its edge, but this doesn’t happen until a good way into the game, and is more amusing than downright bad. There’s very little direct combat, and you can probably get away with not engaging enemies at all. There are the odd few things needing smashing with an axe, though, which is always welcome.
It’s all just rather intriguing. Not knowing who you’re playing as or whose memories you’re going through for a large part of the game compels you to scour every corner looking for notes, photographs, and letters. These are represented by little blue ducks, and you can revisit memories at any time to make sure you’ve found them all. The ducks are odd, and at one point get odder, but it’s okay. Master Reboot is pretty cool, a little weird, and worth the four or so hours of your time it’ll take to uncover its mysteries.