Scanner Sombre

Developer: Introversion Software | Released: 2017 | Genre: Adventure, Exploration

Finally a game that made me very happy to still be a PC gamer. This one was fascinating and had me glued to the screen for the two hours it lasted. Sure, that’s not exactly long – but the main gimmick does get a little exhausting and so I was actually glad it wasn’t longer.

As a first person exploration game, I spawned in a tent in the bottom of an enormous cave system. The tent itself had the only static light in the entire game. Outside, I picked up VR goggles and a hand-held scanner. The scanner could be activated to shoot out a cluster of lasers for drawing dots on the walls of the cave. Holding the scanner in the same direction added more dots for more details.

It was quite clever and immediately made the cave feel deep, vast and unexplored.

The cave system was also quite long. I passed by many tunnels, ruins, bridges, lakes and so much more. Sometimes there were also one or more “ghosts” – humanoid shapes with perhaps a scream or two – but they never did any damage to me. It also wasn’t just a brain dead walking simulator. Some caves had thin ledges that had to be meticulously navigated to avoid falling into the deep – which luckily, I never did.

It felt like a 3D version of the good old fog of war mechanic.

Although vast, the cave was mostly quite linear. After having walking and jumped around for a while, I sometimes found another scanner device. Picking it up upgraded my scanner with better features.

Spoiler: Details

  • The upgrades were as follows: Control of aperture (spread), burst scan (sort of a smart bomb), map view (3D), sensor upgrade (more dots per minute) and a material scanner (toggling this reminded me of the Predator 2 vision).
  • I came across suspension bridges, a temple, an altar, prisons, an underground lake with witch cages, a boat ride, and a mine with wood scaffolding.
  • A mine elevator up was waiting in the end, but it had a few buttons placed in sinister corners that I had to activate first. A maze with narrow passages should perhaps have been trimmed a little.
  • Turned out our guy was dead all along – felt like a cliché. I wish he had just been normal for once.
  • I was actually a little proud of myself for not falling into an abyss even once, but alas it turned out the game didn’t have achievements. Bleh.
  • Towards the end I believe I could feel a slight drop in frame rate. Not too surprising since the dotted surroundings could be seen everywhere. It was just piling up as I went along.

Pros

  • A dot-drawing cave scanning mechanic makes for a fascinating experience.
  • It’s not just cave tunnels and nothing else – there are nice changes along the way.
  • Scanner upgrades keeps the gimmick fresh.
  • It doesn’t feel like it should have been longer than the two hours it takes to complete.

Cons

  • If you don’t like the dot-drawing gimmick, the game does nothing for you.
  • You can fall into a drop if you’re not careful around some ledges.
  • There are also a few places where you need to jump across holes.
  • A maze in the end with narrow passages can be challenging.

9/10

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