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Game Review

Plenty of video games blend sci-fi thrills with mystery and space travel. But few have done it quite like Observation. It's a puzzle-focused game that, story-wise, feels something like a play on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Oh, and there's one other important twist here: You play as the emotionless computer.

A Rebooted Bot in the Dead of Space

This tale unfolds in the year 2026, and you play as the System Administration Maintenance AI—not Hal 9000, but SAM—of a space station called Observation. When you blink and sputter slowly back into operation, you don't really know what's going on. You just know that everything is wrong: The station is limping along on minimal power, the human crew is nowhere to be seen, and your memory core has been wiped clean.

You quickly realize, however, that the only reason you're even operating is because of one particular crew member, Dr. Emma Fisher. She's jerry-rigged a way for you to function, at least on a basic level, and she's helping with the situation at hand.

At first, your view of the space station world is limited to a single stationary camera. But as Emma brings more of your systems online, it's obvious that there are many parts of the station with individual camera feeds. You'll also have increasing access to drones, as well as other electronic devices and functions to potentially interact with, as the game progresses.

You also become aware of the fact that your space station is no longer orbiting Earth as it's supposed to be. It's currently some 740 million miles away and orbiting Saturn. So now, it’s time to piece your functions back together, solve the many electronic puzzles on the station and gain insight into what’s really going on—mysteries that stretch far beyond simple mechanical malfunctions.

An Odyssey of Time and Place

This is one of those games that gradually pulls back the onion skin layers of the situation around you. And it offers the kind of puzzle-centric gameplay that non-gamers can easily get into.

Playing as Sam, you'll encounter number puzzles, sequential conundrums, memory-based time-challenges and a wide variety of search-your-environment tasks as you reboot base functions, access locking mechanisms, tap into left-behind laptop messages, restore communications and reconfigure your own programming. All the while, you'll also be helping Emma decipher the reasons for your mysterious circumstances.

If you’re thinking this task-filled setup sounds potentially tedious or boring, I can assure you it's not. The game may be filled with puzzles, but it’s driven by sci-fi storytelling that’s immersive and memorable.

On top of that, your slowly deepening life-and-death relationship with Emma is realistically compelling, too. Even without emotions (or hands), you’ll find yourself flailing away in an attempt to beat a villain, to save the life of a person dear to you and to fulfill a multidimensional mission that you didn’t even know that you had.

And a Black Hole

As the story unfolds, we see blood-dappled evidence of violence and death and one heartless human choice. And SAM is ordered to be heartless as well. That said, this is not a game filled with bloodletting and gore.

Unfortunately, despite all of this space adventure’s positive and distinctive storytelling elements, there's a big negative one in the gaming mix to be wary of, too. As the tensions rise, the humans in this tale have a tendency to spew some pretty foul language. (Even our beloved Emma.) F- and s-words fly, along with other profanities. In space, it's been said, no one can hear you scream. But you will hear your crewmates swear in this game.

Frankly, that’s a disappointing inclusion, one that didn’t have to be a part of this otherwise engaging space odyssey. But it’s the kind of problem that nevertheless pushes this well-crafted title deeper into the abyss and out of bounds for many families.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Puzzle

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

PlayStation 4, PC

Publisher

Developer Digital

Released

May 21, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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