Frictional Games, masters of horror and the sadistic minds behind both Penumbra and Amnesia - games capable of turning even the 'ardest blokes ghostly white - bring us SOMA.
Though lacking in vitamin D, this reviewer emerged from his dark room richer for the experience of playing SOMA.
An eclectic range of puzzles impede your progress and hide the aforementioned juicy storytelling devices. If you aren’t a huge fan of conventional puzzle games, you'll be pleasantly surprised that none outstay their welcome or become frustrating. You'll likely have to sit and really think at points, but before long the solution will click and you'll feel like a genius for it.
Whilst there's a constant sense of unease brought about by the suffocatingly thick atmosphere - conjured in part by the outstanding audio - monster encounters, the meat of any self-respecting horror experience, are largely few and far between. When they do rear their ugly heads it's business as usual for Frictional devotees; enemies cannot be combatted in any way and simply looking at their form is enough to damage to the player. The system works as well as ever, combining helplessness and fear of the unknown into an unnerving cocktail.
Several different enemy types are encountered throughout the adventure and introduced to varying degrees of success. You'll first encounter a lumbering, bipedal... thing, that's incredibly easy to avoid and as such devoid of any real fear-mongery. The first real instance of terror doesn't come until hours into the game with the introduction of the second enemy type. From the jump scare introduction, through to the frantic escape from the constant pursuer, you are entirely immersed in the moment. We shook the controller in a bid to run faster, held our breath and kept still whilst hidden away, muffled cries to have them manifest as pathetic whimpers - it was terrifying. Unfortunately, enemy types to follow are just slight variations on the formula and don't carry the same impact when you've seen it before.
SOMA also suffers technically with long load times and relatively frequent minor hitches, such as slowdown and hanging. Add a freeze into the mix and it isn't the best runner, but it's a sterling effort for Frictional's first console outing regardless.
Though lacking in vitamin D, this reviewer emerged from his dark room richer for the experience of playing SOMA. It's a very clever game that takes the player on an unmissable journey through one of the richest environments and narratives in gaming - all at a budget price point. Buy this game, grab your headphones, turn the volume up, the lights out, and enjoy it.