Not long ago I noticed I received a notification on Nintendo’s Miiverse that someone had commented on a post I made about indie sci-fi survival horror game “Master Reboot.” Initially I had said that the game was an absolute train wreck, however I was met with crazy disagreement (as negative criticism is always met on the Miiverse). Everyone seemed to agree that this game was some kind of masterpiece and it seemed like I was the only one who though it was far from it, VERY FAR.
I decided to take a look at some more-recent comments to see what people were still saying about it a year into its WiiU release. And the opinion still seems to be that Master Reboot is both a good game and a scary one at that. I decided to re-review Master Reboot while my temper was flaring and blood still boiling. And after playing to completion for a second time, I can safely say:
“YOU ARE ALL FRIGGEN WRONG ABOUT MASTER REBOOT!!!
I bought Master Reboot after seeing its trailer hit the Miiverse and thinking it was going to be a great game. It looked cool, the trailer made it seem pretty scary and it had a pretty interesting idea behind it. But what I got was a $15 disaster that is both lazy in its game design and pathetic in its attempts to be scary. How Nintendo approved this for its indie shop is beyond me.
Now, I wrote a pretty comprehensive review about this game last year after I had played it, however when I moved my blogs from my website to here, it turned out I lost a few (Master Reboot being the most heartbreaking.) One of the biggest problems I found writing the review was trying to describe a lot of the games problems in text. So I decided for this review I would show rather than tell you the games problems in the first of what could become many, Ninja Live Reviews:
However, as I did learn, doing let’s play style reviews is kind of hard, and I may not have articulated as well as I can in text, so feel free to keep reading for a more smarter review.
Now I want to begin by saying that I don’t wholly fault Wales Interactive for making such a bad game. They really did have a good idea in Master Reboot, and I can kind of forgive them. I get that they’re indie, so they probably don’t have the largest amount of resources or manpower, or even experience. And compared to a lot of other indie games that are on Steam, it’s at least playable. So before I go on let me just say from the bottom of my heart “Wales, you guys had a really good idea, and I hope nothing for the best for you. But you made a truly shitty game and I hope you get better.”
Master Reboot is a sci-fi survival horror game taking place within the “Soul Cloud,” a fictional virtual space where people can upload the “souls” of deceased relatives and friends and visit them after death. The player takes control of Madison, creator of the Soul Cloud? Trying to find the soul of her deceased husband? All the while being chased by a corrupt and hostile security program “Seren.exe?” I say that like they’re questions because even after two playthroughs I’m still not totally sure, and that’s a massive problem on this game. Its story is delivered in barely animated pretty amateurish hand drawn images. Now, I know someone probably put a lot of hard work and time into these, and I made the joke that they belonged on a 12-year-old’s Deviantart page, but honestly, browsing Deviantart, the caliber of drawing has significantly improved since I was last on there. This game’s “animations” are actually worse than Deviantart.
Besides the poor cutscenes, the game’s other form of story delivery is collectable mementos that are hidden throughout the game. Collectables should never tell the story, they should only add strokes of color to it. Exposition needs to be woven into the narrative, not hidden throughout the game where players are likely to miss important information.
Another problem with the game’s story is a result of the game’s “hub-city.” The hub-city acts as the game’s overworld, allowing players to choose the individual levels to play. Four levels open at a time and players are free to choose the levels as they want. This presents a serious problem since it delivers the story in a disjointed manner.
And I understand that to a degree, this game is trying to have an element of mystery so you’re not being told everything flat out, but there is very clearly a story being told here. It’s not like it’s a mystery you’re trying to solve, you’re trying to get to the end of a story. But that’s impossible when the game does such a horrible job of telling you that story.
Even if it was supposed to be a mystery, it does such a horrible job with giving the player clues that after two in-depth playthroughs I still couldn’t tell you what the hell was going on.
Master Reboot tries to be your typical first-person survival horror affair, however it completely mishandles the kind of experience a first-person horror game can be. Consider a game like Slender, Outlast, P.T, or even as far back as Silent Hill 4: The Room. Those games take advantage of the first-person perspective by putting you in tight, claustrophobic atmospheres. They play with perspectives and visibility creating an experience that can be pants-shittingly terrifying.
Master Reboot tries to do this, however it falls completely flat by generally having you in wide-open areas and delegating most of its gameplay to a two-part formula. Every level starts in a place reflecting the memory, which is usually completed by solving pretty basic puzzles (usually, find some things, press some buttons, ect) however these puzzles are usually painfully easy, or needlessly convoluted. A puzzle is something you have all the information to, and the difficulty comes from your own ability to solve it. Often in Master Reboot, the game just doesn’t present the information of its puzzles clearly or even at all. The player is left to guess or desperately try to figure out how to solve it, until they solve it on a whim, simply by guessing (as I did for a couple).
After that, you complete a pretty basic obstacle course in the games “computer world,” enforcing the idea of being in the program. Every level has this formula and it makes the game very monotonous and repetitive.
The game also has no transitions between levels. Once you get to the level it just cuts to a loading screen and you’re in the next part. This breaks up any sense of flow the game could’ve had and significantly pulls you out of the experience.
Aside from those pathetic cutscenes, graphically this game looks pretty decent. There’s a nice use of cell shading for the graphics and the overall look of the computer bits does look pretty nice. There’s a few moments in the outdoor levels where they use semi-atmospheric lighting lighting and it actually ends up looking pretty nice. It certainly doesn’t push any boundaries, but it looks nice enough to enjoy.
Master Reboot is neither survival nor horror since it’s not scary and there’s no active enemies in the game that actually try to kill you. And for a “survival horror” game that’s a pretty massive problem. The problem starts with one of the first things you see in the game, these strange glyphs:
That produce these terrifying images:
I get what the game is trying to do here, but these stupid, lovecraftian horror images completely conflict with the tone of a sci-fi game. Rather than having these dumb images that are scary, only for scariness’ sake, the game should’ve focused more on making scarier things that fit the games theme. More glitches in the system, more memories breaking down and becoming hostile, more ghostly figures of people in the Soul Cloud, all things that would have made sense in the game’s established world and still been scary.
The other glaring problem that devalues the horror is reflective of the game’s poor design. As I demonstrated within my video review, many of the game’s scares repeat on loops at the specific point where the scare is supposed to happen. Aside from two or three jump-scares where Seren.exe jumps out of closets, most of the games scares are just loud noises that repeat on loops when you walk through the same area (I.E the Park, Hospital, Library levels).
Once you become aware of the game’s tricks, it becomes very hard not to see the stitching of the whole thing. It’s like going to a crappy haunted house at a carnival. The first time is kind of scary, but when you go through the second or third time, aware of where the scares are, it’s hard to be scared. To its credit, the game can get you with these scares the first or second time, but after a while it just becomes annoying and repetitive.
Master Reboot is a prime example of how good ideas and a decent look cannot sustain a game. It’s attempts the be a horror game set inside TRON fall flat on every accord. For everything the game did right, it did a hundred things wrong to what ultimately boils down to a repetitive, engaging game that gets stale fast and isn’t scary. If people really believe that this game is not only well designed, but also scary then it makes perfect sense why Konami pulled the plug on Silent Hills. Avoid at all costs.
End of Line.