Originally Written for FlickeringMyth.com
In the last few years point and click adventure games have been making a bit of a comeback, and one small studio in Spain is getting in on the action with their game Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today.
The developer Fictiorama Studios is a four man team, three of which are brothers. Mario, Alberto and Luis Olivan are joined by Martin Martinez to round out the squad. This may be their first game, but Fictiorama are planning Tomorrow Comes Today as the first instalment in a “Dead Synchronicity Saga”. The game is described as an “Old-school 2D graphic adventure game featuring space-time distortions, a dystopian atmosphere… and a dark, bloodstained plot.” The game was successfully kickstarted in April last year, since then it’s been approved on Steam Greenlight and gained a publisher for a bit more funding and a retail release.
Before going forward I should probably state that what I played was still in Beta and therefore unfinished. The game plays very similar to the classic point-and-click adventures it’s inspired by, if it wasn’t for the high quality assets you’d be forgiven from thinking you were playing a 20 year old game. As stated above, Dead Synchronicity is all 2D. Everything in it is hand drawn in a unique almost abstract style. It definitely meets the dystopian criteria, and somehow manages not to look as bland and monochrome as many other games in the genre. The world is made up of a series of fixed camera environments with beautifully painted backdrops. For the most part you can move freely between each of these sections, only being stopped by your current level of story progression. The animation is very simple, but with only one artist and a budget of $50,000 for the whole game, you shouldn’t exactly be expecting Pixar quality.
The developers describe the plot as follows:
“A terrible pandemic is turning all of humanity into the Dissolved – the sick whose deliria provide them with supernatural cognitive powers… but also steer them towards a gruesome death.
The root of this illness seems to be the Great Wave, an inexplicable chain of natural disasters that destroyed all energy sources and communications and plunged the world into a chaos ruthlessly controlled by both the authorities and the army alike.
So the player will have to help Michael, a man with no past, recover his identity and decode the events that brought the world to the edge of collapse. Because, if Michael doesn’t hurry, he won’t be able to avoid the impending moment of dead synchronicity… when Time itself dissolves.”
The game begins with Michael waking up in a camper-van under the care of Rod. Rod explains that he and his family have been looking after Michael since the Great Wave and that he is a “Blank Head”, someone who has lost their memory. Although, Michael came away from this better than others, who not only forgot who they were but how to walk, talk and even how to eat. Where you have been staying is inside what Rod calls a refugee camp, but is more like a junk-yard prison. Your first major task in the game is figuring out how to leave the camp so you can get a special item for Rod, and after a few hours of playing, I still haven’t figured out how.
You see, Dead Synchronicity doesn’t only take it’s gameplay style from classic adventure games, but also it’s incredibly obtuse puzzles. For the most part my puzzle solving felt like it was just a case of trial and error. There are even times I felt the game deliberately contradicted itself to make a puzzle harder. For example, there is a point where Michael has an injured foot and you make some bandages to cover the injury. But you can’t just use the bandages, or equip them and click on his foot. You need to click on a pair of shoes with the bandages selected. A pair of shoes that without the bandages selected Michael says you can’t use until he has treated his injury. Some people might enjoy this kind of misdirection, but for me it felt like a very round-about way of accomplishing something very simple.
This kind of “click on everything” puzzle solving plagued me the whole time I spent with it. The game roughly points you towards a goal but doesn’t give you any hint of how to get there. This left me going in circles, trying to combine every item I had with everything else in the world in a vain attempt to gain even the tiniest piece of information. Some sort of hint system is sorely missing, and without it I fear getting through the game will be such an arduous process that I’ll stop before the end. It’s a shame because the mystery surrounding Michael, the Great Wave and the world itself is really intriguing and something I’d like to see to it’s conclusion.
Thanks to their publisher Daedalic the game will be fully voice acted for the final release date, but at this point in time all dialogue is expressed via on screen text. Conversations play out as you would expect in this kind of game. Michael will have a selection of things to say that you will pick from. Unfortunately for the most part you’re just picking the order in which he says these things, rather than making choices between different statements or questions. There are times where some of his question are optional, but considering you need to gain as much information as possible to progress you don’t really leave anything unsaid, at least I didn’t. While talking, every character has a random facial animation that loops, and I have to say this can be quite distracting. I found myself at times being almost hypnotised by them. Thinking about what noise they would actually be making. Rod for example seems to say “Fe-ah-oum” on repeat, and there’s an old man that continuously meows. I really hope that when there is full voice acting they add some kind of lip-sync, even if it just roughly matches the dialogue.
Two of the brothers (Mario & Alberto) in Fictiorama are also part of an Alternative Rock band named Kovalski who performed all of the music for the game. I have to say, it’s a strange soundtrack. While it totally fits the theme and setting, it can be jarring at times. It’s hard to describe why, something about the use of drums and rhythm being more prominent that you would usually get in atmospheric music. This isn’t to say I don’t like it, I do, but there is just something odd about it. The developers have uploaded a fair amount of music to Sound Cloud, so you can have a listen for yourself to see what I mean.
All in all the game is interesting, and it’s on the right path towards being a must play for fans of the classic genre. I’m looking forward to playing the final product, particularly once the voice acting has been added. I just hope they do add some kind of hint system, otherwise I don’t think I’ll ever get out of that damn refugee camp.
Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today will be available for PC and Mac on April 10th 2015, with Linux and iOS versions coming some time in the future.
Alan Heath – Follow me on Twitter