The genre of point ‘n click adventure titles has quite the storied history, but it's a genre
that's waned - at least on consoles - in recent years, with very few if any original titles being produced for fans. But now that all changes with sci-fi tale;
Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today (hereafter referred to as Dead Synchronicity).
Awakening within a post-apocalyptic wasteland after an event reffered to as ‘The Great Wave’ has seemingly left the world and its populace decimated - leaving
a literal scar upon the sky for all to see and hear. You play as Michael, afflicted with a status known as being a ‘blankhead’ - someone who has lost their
memory due to the aforementioned Great Wave - with no knowledge of who you are nor what has happened - aside from being plagued by disparate voices and
visions jotting your hazy memory - you find yourself waking within a trailer - the home of Rod and his family who have been caring for you whilst you’ve been
comatose - which is now the equivalent of a luxury penthouse compared to how others are faring.
Said trailer is located inside a refugee-cum-internment camp which is currently under armed guard by some less than scrupulous soldiers, who prey on its
denizens and give favour to camp ‘Moles’ - those who feed information about camp goings-on to these makeshift authorities. Part of their job is to
seek out patients of a disease known as the ‘dissolved’ - another gift of the Great Wave - which is spreading quickly and plaguing what's left of the
population. Unfortunately Rod has now tasked you with finding a cure, as his son Colin is currently showing symptoms of the disease.
Left alone for the first time within your newly adopted haven, you’ll be introduced to the simple mechanics Dead Synchronicity has on
offer for the player; using the DualShock 4’s left analog stick or touchpad to move the cursor around the environment along with simple click of
Cross dictates Michael to walk there - if possible - conversely hovering over an object in the scene will change the cursor into an icon, that allows
for both observation (by pressing the Square button) or interaction via Cross once again.
Once you acquire an item or two, these are then stored in your inventory - represented by a suitcase in the top left corner - which can be accessed by
hitting the Triangle button. The items within also follow the same rules except they can also be combined (by pressing Cross) with an
object within a scene (or one another) to create a possible interaction.
It’s all extremely simple and if you have played any kind of point-and-click adventure game within the past two decades it’ll be instantly familiar to you, but
thankfully Spanish developers Fictiorama Studios have gone a step further and transformed Dead Synchronicity - a game that would
usually be more suited for the PC space - to feel right at home on the console using a controller, thanks to some smart game design decisions.
Rather than having to click every part of the environment - like a needle in a haystack - akin to a mad man in the hope of finding some modicum of
interactivity, you can simply navigate to any point of interest with the D-Pad, meaning you’ll be hardly using your analog stick and cursor at all,
building upon that is the ability to highlight every point of interest within a scene just by squeezing of the L2 or R2 shoulder buttons - a
perfect solution for this particular genre on console and instead of detracting, it adds to the experience of Dead Synchronicity, leaving
frustration back in the 90’s where it belongs
Travelling through the barbed wire camp - and eventually much further - you’ll quickly become engrossed in the world on offer in
Dead Synchronicity, whilst the animations are extremely simple - reminding me of classics such as Full Throttle - it's extremely effective in
conveying its story and crafting the reflection of a well polished presentation, even with the obvious budget constraints the small team were working within.
Added to that is a beautiful art style which perfectly portrays the bleak and down-trodden world of Dead Synchronicity - which itself is
inspired by the German Modernist art movement - with each scene feeling like its own piece of 2D art. When Dead Synchronicity is truly at
its best though, is when those scenes interconnect, becoming tiled on a singular screen allowing seamless transitions from one area to another without having
to load a new environment - a split screen effect usually found within the film realm.
Unfortunately that budget constraint does rear its head with the voice acting in Dead Synchronicity, every piece of dialog and all
characters within the game are fully voiced and whilst Michael (voiced by Jeremiah Costello) is perfect - embodying a voice exactly how you would
expect a 90’s point-and-click adventure to sound - some of his contemporaries don’t fare quite too well.
In fact the voice department of Dead Synchronicity reminds me a lot of David Cage’s Heavy Rain, with some of the voice work being
a little jarring - seeming out of place within a particular moment or character - with a few of the minor characters clearly not native English speakers. It’s
a minor gripe, and one that doesn’t really detract your enjoyment, but one thing that could have easily been fixed is the game's subtitle dialog text.
As each character narrates within Dead Synchronicity, their text appears next to them, unfortunately if a character is at the edge of the
screen this dialog finds itself cut off - hidden beyond the ether - but once again a minor gripe that shows its independent game roots.
But it’s clear to see the love of the classic point-and-click adventures emanating from every pore of Dead Synchronicity, and developers
Fictiorama Studios could have easily over burdened it with new mechanics - moving it away from the genre and creating something new such as
Stick It To The Man. Instead the team stuck to their roots, and the game is better off for it, the simplification of its mechanics simply works, and works
well, with only the last act (of four) highlighting possible new mechanics on the horizon in hopefully a future sequel to come.
This same philosophy also transitioned to the puzzle elements of Dead Synchronicity; point ‘n click adventures are usually laden with obscure puzzles that you’ll be racking your brain
over for months (looking at you Mr. Goat from Broken Sword), thankfully none of the puzzles within Dead Synchronicity are too obtuse allowing
you to quickly move on and ingrain yourself further into its well spun tale.
Upon ultimately reaching the eventual conclusion and final act of Dead Synchronicity - which could take you anywhere from 4-7 hours depending on your
aptitude with the genre - you may be left wanting, ending on a sudden and fittingly bleak cliffhanger that obviously warrants a further sequel for a conclusion.
It's a sequel that I hope Fictiorama Studios can indeed provide, the worst literary crime is an unfinished story and Dead Synchronicity is a game worthy of success, one every
point-and-click fan will likely enjoy.
Dead Synchronicity is a love letter to the genre from developers clearly influenced by those 90’s adventure classics the genre grew up with.
Spinning an engrossing post-apocalyptic narrative encased within a beautiful art style and simple animation, permeated with some smart game design choices
allowing a smooth experience for console gamers, with the only seams being some spotty voice performances and an ending that leaves you wanting more.
Point ‘n click titles may have seen a short hiatus on console, but that changes now with
Dead Synchronicity, a game that every fan of the genre should experience, to retread nostalgia once more.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4.
3rd October 2016
- 4 Out of 5 Stars
Some spotty voice acting
Ending leaves you wanting more
Smart console port design