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Dead Synchronicity

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By WskOsc25-07-2015
Dead Synchronicity

The Defence

Developer:
Fictiorama Studios
Publisher:
Daedalic Entertainment
Genre:
Adventure, Indie
Release Date:
10-04-2022

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.6 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce GT 610
AMD Radeon HD 4650
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
4.5 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is the product of a small indie team and a pile of Kickstarter cash. It has a lot to live up to against classic point and click adventures and the recent Telltale re-imagining of the genre, so lets take a LOOK AT GAME and see how well Dead Sync holds up to scrutiny.

The Trial

The most striking aspect of Dead Sync, visible from the moment you boot up the game is the art style, kind of a mix between cel-shaded and faux-paper cut outs that manage to make every single character look flat and uninteresting. The backgrounds meanwhile are beautifully painted and detailed; they manage to convey the nature of the world better than any Fallout texture or dimly lit ruin but stand in contrast to the characters themselves who look massively out of place.

The introduction sequence does little to endear the game to you, with a voice repeating “wake up” while the main character makes Solid Snake level comments against a black background. Thankfully the voice over can be skipped in favour of reading the text displayed on screen but it's not a good sign for a story heavy game when you're hitting the skip button within the first five minutes. This tone carries on throughout the introduction; once awake Michael has a talk with Rod, ostensibly to set up Michael's motives and nudge you in the right direction but actually to give you more practice in skipping dialogue as Rod comes back not once but twice after saying he's leaving to provide more badly acted dialogue.

By later he means as soon as that dialogue ends.

By later he means as soon as that dialogue ends.

Near the beginning of the game, many of the characters you meet are just as grating, with each having a little tic that feels engineered to annoy; The Hunter's out of place “dude”, the homeless man's spitting, the little boys whispering etc.

Characters feel very one-note, not entirely uncommon for the genre but poorly disguised in Dead Sync, if you don't provide them with the solution necessary to progress their dialogue feels less like personality and more like a ham-fisted hint system. Sadly, experiencing the rest of the game might be more than a chore – two game breaking bugs had me restart the whole thing three times. I actually wrote a macro for my mouse to just automatically rapidly click through the entire intro because I got fed up of hearing it. When not broken however the gameplay is pretty easygoing. Holding the space bar will highlight any points of interest on screen and double clicking an area transition allows you to instantly move to the next area without having to sit through a walk animation, this alone feels like the best innovation brought to the genre since the SCUMM engine.

Dead SyncCon 2015

Dead SyncCon 2015

The story meanwhile focuses on clichéd amnesiac Michael and the state of the world after the Great Wave, an event that decimated civilization (or did it?) and heralded the arrival of “blankheads” i.e. severe amnesia and the “dissolved” a disease that makes people's skin melt. All of these concepts are thrown at you with little to no explanation initially but talking to people around the refugee camp can yield some answers, and this being a point and click game means you're probably going to ask everyone everything whether you want to or not. Without spoiling too much, Michael escapes the refugee camp on a quest to learn the truth about himself and the Great Wave while gathering various mcguffins either to rub against other mcguffins or for plot purposes. To be fair, you do bare witness to a couple of fairly disturbing scenes along the way but their effect is lessened by the bad voice acting and character art style that makes the violence in South Park look realistic.

Redeeming Fictiorama is their wonderful musical score. Alternating between low droning and plinking organ sounds conveys the dull, oppressive atmosphere and constant danger better than the gameplay ever can. It isn't a bad listen outside of the game either, managing to be pleasing out of context and perhaps all the better for it.

The Verdict

Dead Sync is a victim of its own success, or lack thereof. With better funding and better talent the game might have become a stand-out for the genre thanks to dealing with some serious themes while remaining easy to play. Sadly hammy voice-overs, dragging conversations and characters that are aesthetically displeasing are all sticking points preventing the game from achieving even mediocrity.

Case Review

  • Atmosphere: The background art is lovely and grimy, single-handedly propping up the dingy atmosphere.
  • Sound: The musical score is short but sweet.
  • Indie: It's a game from a small indie studio funded by the fans.
  • It exists: It's a thing and it's real.
  • It exists: It's a thing and it's real, sadly.
  • Boring: The biggest sin for a game, it's not engaging.


1.5
Score: 1.5/5
Go play Monkey Island instead.

Appeal

Daedelic Entertainment is back, publishing another quirky point-and-click adventure. This time they’ve teamed up with developer Fictiorama Studios who offer a vision of a dark, surreal, post-apocalyptic world. There’s a lot of information to get through as the game seeks to build up its world but you’re never made to feel overloaded with exposition. It is a world marked by violence, sickness and a genuinely convincing sense of desperation and deprivation. It is a world that sits very well with the point-and-click, fetch quest style of gameplay. In the camp, there is never enough of the essentials and no one ever does anything for free. Michael is a man deprived of identity but in order to even get a few fragments of his past, he has to scratch the backs of many others. How you go about this is not horribly contrived if you pay attention to the social fabric of the camp and take note of who might have what and what they may be willing to trade it for. Everything has a price and almost anything can be bought or sold.

The situation the player character, Michael, wakes up to is certainly dire but Dead Synchronicity is not through and through a depressing game. The game is sprinkled with darkly comedic moments, often expressed through Michael’s occasionally sardonic observations, to keep you engaged as you move from desperate scene to desperate scene. It was this balance that hooked me in. The presentation also helped. The angular, expressionistic art and character designs set the game apart from more recent releases. The sound track is a cut above and one I will definitely listen to again outside of playing the game. The voice acting has moments where it stumbles with the occasional actor delivering lines mechanically or otherwise awkwardly. But most of the voice work is to a very high standard, the range of talent on show here sounding very diverse.

Considering everything above and the fact this appears to be Fictiorama Studios first game, Dead Synchronicity has left me feeling very impressed. The developers have said that ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ is only the first instalment of a ‘saga’ which is also an intriguing prospect. This first instalment has a lot going on and I’m looking forward to see just how desperate and surreal things get as the series progresses.

4
Score: 4/5

Appeal

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is a puzzle game with very interesting aesthetics and presentation. Voice acting for the most part is well done. Michael, the main protagonist sounds great, there were a few NPCs that sounded wooden or awkward though. I love the illustration style and the music. The music gave a lot of the dark atmosphere of the game and the colours of the background and characters worked well with it.

Pointing and clicking was straightforward, rewarding and doesn’t feel like a chore. There was one or two quick occasions that I had to look up on the internet for help, but this didn’t really ruin the experience with the gameplay.

I know now that Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is the first part of a series, but this particular “episode” felt lacking. Looking back despite the fact that enjoyed the game up until the so called ending, I wouldn’t say it really stands on it’s own very well, even for the episode. I felt let down at the same time I was enjoying my journey until the ending. Despite all of this I would still say that the game should be a try, when it’s on sale. Though I do find the art and most of the narrative as redeeming factors.

3.5
Score: 3.5/5
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