New games release on Xbox One every week and it can be difficult keeping track of them all, especially during the fall when so many blockbuster AAA titles are taking up people’s attention with their heavy-hitting marketing campaigns. Some of the games reviewed this week you may not have even heard of. This time, we are taking a look at SOMA, Hello Neighbor, and Chaos on Deponia.
SOMA may have initially released over two years, but it’s new to the Xbox One family. Developed by Frictional Games, the creators behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent, SOMA is a psychological survival horror that delves into themes of consciousness and humanity. For the purpose of this review, and my sanity, I played it in the console exclusive Safe Mode, which reprograms the monsters’ behavior in-game so they will not attack or kill you. Much less ‘survival horror’ and more ‘psychological horror,’ as the game still retains a tense atmosphere thanks to its stellar sound design and lighting that immerses you in its environment, a location that reminds me of a vault from the Fallout universe. After going in for a brain scan and waking up in the destroyed underwater facility of Pathos-II, your character – Simon – sets out to uncover what the hell is going on. While themes about artificial intelligence and consciousness have been explored in almost every medium, it’s so well done in SOMA that it doesn’t feel boring or overused. My biggest complaints are that the game occasionally freezes for a few seconds, the textures take several seconds to initially load, and it takes a long time (1-2 minutes) to load your game save.
If you were really looking forward to Hello Neighbor, you’re going to be disappointed. As a stealth game it tasks you with breaking into your neighbor’s home to find out what secret he is hiding in his basement, à la the film Disturbia. It’s a cool premise with an attractive cartoon-like whimsical art style, but its gameplay ruins it. The stealth mechanics are very minimal, with no way to lean or interact with objects other than picking them up and throwing them. You can jump into a closet or hide under the bed with the press of a button, but if you’re crouched in this moment then your character model will clip halfway through the floor, making the screen look like a mess. Its control scheme isn’t intuitive as drop/throw are the same button (right trigger), so if you want to throw an object far, you’ll need to hold down the trigger, costing a precious amount of time if you are in a hurry. If you’re sneaking and jump over a fence, then your character is automatically standing again and you’ll once again need to manually crouch. As a stealth game, it fails. Even the game’s AI, which was marketed as being advanced and would learn from your behavior, is a letdown. Your neighbor may have good eye sight, but he is very slow and honestly didn’t seem like he was reacting all that much to my attempts at breaking in. There are a lot of good ideas and secrets to uncover that are wrapped into a game that just feels unfinished.
Chaos on Deponia may be five years old, but it holds up very well on today’s hardware thanks to its vibrant, stylized graphics. This point-and-click adventure from Daedalic Entertainment follows a man named Rufus as he attempts to escape from his home planet of Deponia, all while an evil organization threatens to destroy it. You won’t need to play the first game in the series to fully understand it, but there are references to Rufus’ previous adventures in the beginning that make for a slightly confusing and awkward fourth-wall breaking conversation as he discusses completing the tutorial and knowing the controls of the game already. There will be plenty of times Chaos on Deponia tries to be meta with varying success. The jokes can fall flat at times but overall it’s pretty funny and enjoyable, even if it isn’t entirely ‘laugh out loud’ hysterical. Its gameplay remains largely the same as most in its genre and it doesn’t offer any groundbreaking conventions, but it’s still a smart and wacky adventure that pulls you into its world.
SOMA and Chaos on Deponia are the highlights of this roundup. I’d definitely recommend them based on what genre you normally prefer to play because they are both strong games. Hello Neighbor, however, is best skipped. There are just too many issues in its current state that can’t be overlooked. If any of these look interesting to you, give them a shot and see for yourself.