Review: Despite some bugs, Somerville is a fantastic indie game

Available Platforms
Genre

Indie , Platformer

Release Date

November 15, 2022

Developer

Jumpship

Publisher

Jumpship

Author

Clare Godwin

Deals
$24.99
Somerville is an adventure video game and the debut title by the independent studio Jumpship. The studio's co-founder, Dino Patti, previously co-founded Playdead and worked on Limbo and Inside as executive producer on both games. (Wikipedia)

With an opening cinematic akin to a movie, Somerville is the story of one family in the wake of a world-ending event. It follows a desperate father, separated from his family at the start of an apocalyptic alien invasion. The entire game uses third-person to follow our hero on his epic journey to reunite with his family and find a safe place. The game feels almost like an interactive movie, but it has occasional flaws that sometimes ruin the magic.

Somerville is the first game from the new studio, Jumpship. It was co-founded by Dino Patti, an executive producer for Limbo and Inside. There’s a clear similarity between Somerville and both of those games, with all three telling their stories through the environments, animations, and silent cut scenes.

This game won’t be for everyone, but Somerville is a game with an immersive experience with beautiful graphics, and an incredible soundtrack. However, this only really takes four to six hours to complete. Replaying it might give you more insight into the story but this is a linear game.

Strong, Silent, and Subjective

Somerville starts with a family sleeping through an emergency broadcast, and chaos quickly unfolds. It follows the story of a father who is separated from his family after their home is caught in the crossfire of battle. The nameless man must survive an alien invasion as he tries to find his wife and child. Luckily, he’s not totally alone! The family dog stayed behind with him!

The story unfolds without any dialogue or narration to explain anything. Everything is left to players to discover through the environments, settings, character interactions, animations, and dialogue-free cutscenes. It’s easy to forget there’s no dialogue while playing Somerville though it does leave more than a few unanswered questions about the game. The ending is pretty surreal, and without any dialogue or narration to explain it, the end of Somerville might be a little confusing or disappointing to some.

However, my biggest issue with the story is… the dog! The dog doesn’t matter to the story, is rarely acknowledged, and follows the man for half the game. Then the dog vanishes for a while, and the man doesn’t care at all. Anyone wanting the dog to be a big part of the story will be a little upset by the lack of interaction, character development, and importance.

Somerville Gameplay

Similar to Limbo and Inside, the gameplay for Somerville is mostly made up of platforming, walking, and puzzles. The main character is gifted some strange alien powers near the start of the game, which allow him to change the form of alien matter. While the press statements seemed to suggest there are a lot of powers for players to discover, in reality, there are only two.

While this ability is pretty simple to understand, there’s no built-in system to introduce how it works. The game lets players discover this organically instead, which can sometimes slow progress. It’s not always clear how far-reaching these abilities are and that players can or need to manipulate the environment in other ways while using them. 

These abilities do come with a slight downside, it’s very easy to get literally stuck in the environment with them. It’s possible to get stuck in walls, and rocks and pushed into places the developers didn’t really consider. While this is pretty annoying, bringing up the menu and selecting the “restart from last checkpoint” option will reset the player, so there’s no need to restart the entire chapter. Thankfully there are a lot of checkpoints per chapter, which is perfect for when you get stuck in a wall. Because it will happen at least once! 

The camera angles used sometimes work against the movement in the game since it can be hard to judge the distance between the player and environmental items. It’s easy to get stuck during the more frantic moments when there’s an enemy to run away from, which can kill characters. There was also a moment towards the end where the angle made it very difficult to see where I was moving and what was happening, and needed to use my ability to clear as much of the screen as possible.

Don’t Step in the Light!

Puzzles in Somerville can use special abilities and environmental manipulation to complete them and progress through the game. This means players must understand their abilities and limitations since it’s not always obvious. Once you get to grips with the mechanics, the puzzles aren’t complicated. 

Similar to Inside and Little Nightmares, enemies will only notice the player if they step into their light. This means some of the puzzles are focused around evading enemies by moving objects and hiding behind them to avoid being spotted or picking the right moment to rush across open spaces. 

Can bugs ruin an ending? Yes.

Somerville is a fun, short game but currently has a few big problems that need to be addressed. The first is the fact that it doesn’t support a mouse and keyboard. Somerville needs a controller to play on PC. The developers might add support for this in the future, but at the time of review, it only works with a controller. Don’t be fooled by the home screen offering some keyboard support!

The second big problem should be fixed in later updates. The final section of the game has consistent music bugs that ruin the atmosphere of the ending. It randomly changes tracks to ones that are inappropriate, selects tracks with enemies shooting when there are no enemies, and sometimes it would even just goes completely silent. The soundtrack of a game can make or break it; in this case, the music bugs make the ending fall flat. Hopefully, the developers will fix these bugs in the future.

Sadly, the music issue isn’t the only bug problem. There are bugs in Somerville, but most of them are pretty benign. Despite the bugs, Somerville is a fantastic game, and future updates post-launch should fix the issues.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: How to Find a Shiny Pokemon

A new Pokemon game means new shiny Pokemon to find! Pokemon Scarlet and Violet do have shiny Pokemon running free…

Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet: 7 Beginner Tips for Starting your Journey

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet just dropped, and the Pokemon world is rushing to experience this new adventure. However, things are…

Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet: Every Exclusive Pokemon

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have finally been released and are available to pick up for Nintendo Switch. As normal, there…

FIFA’s new game decisions make EA games looks better

FIFA recently announced its first four games after its long-term partnership with EA ended, and these new games make EA…

Sonic Frontiers: How to Go Fast – Tips and Tricks for Beginning the Game

Sonic’s latest adventure, Sonic Frontiers, is certainly forged from a different mold. This open-world collect-a-thon will have you exploring huge…

8.5

Great

Pros

  • Beautiful game
  • Immersive story
  • Story doesn’t need dialogue or narration
  • Incredible atmosphere
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Organic progression
  • Many different checkpoints per chapter

Cons

  • No keyboard and mouse support
  • The dog gets kinda forgotten
  • Camera angles can be pretty clunky at times
  • Abilities make it easy to get stuck
  • Serious music bug during the epic conclusion