Review: Dead Synchonicity: Tomorrow comes Today

Dead Synchronicity (DS): Tomorrow Comes Today is the début game by Spanish Fictiorama Studios. Set in a post-apocalyptic world approaching the dissolution of time itself, you must piece together the mysteries of the ‘dissolved’, unlock your own past and try to stay alive!

Genre(s): Adventure

Developer: Fictiorama Studios

Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment

Release Date: April 2015

Played: Main Story

Platforms: PC, GNU/Linux, Mac OS

Purchase At: Steam

Good:

  • Dark and gritty post-apocalyptic setting.

  • Expressionist art-style.

  • Outstanding sound design.

Bad:

  • No ending.

  • Uneven writing.

  • Frustrating puzzle design.

Review

When I mention unlock your past I mean it. Michael, our protagonist—and whose voice actor sounds so much like Kevin Sorbo I had Hercules flashbacks—has lost his memory. He only remembers his name and that’s because he hears a woman calling out to him in his dreams. This amnesia or ‘blanking’ as it’s referred in game makes Michael the perfect protagonist to take us through this post Great Wave world. There’s enough pathos to make him his own character, but also a naïveté that makes him perfect as an avatar, a canvas. His caretakers, Rod and his family, use this to their advantage to push Michael—and the player—out into the world. They ask he find a cure for their son, Colin, in exchange for information on the character’s past.

The world of DS is post-apocalyptic and rusty. Before the events of the game, there was the Great Wave, a worldwide event that left civilisation in ruins. People were put into Refugee Camps while the governments attempted to sort things out…but they never did, leaving the people to rot. When the dissolved started appearing, those infected with a disease that kills by liquefying the body, the army took over and turned the camps into concentration ones. To the army, everyone in the camp is a Rat—living in and off garbage—unless they’re a Mole, a Rat elevated to a higher station and kept there to let them know about any dissolved.

The art style eventually grew on me!

The art style eventually grew on me!

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today isn’t a happy game. It’s dark, violent and disturbing and some of the decisions you’ll make will probably haunt you afterwards. I can say, with all certainty that I had never used Acid to disfigure someone in a point & click game, yet here I did it. You do what you gotta do is the motto for The Hunter, one of the rats in the camp, the one controlling its limited underworld. He’s amoral and depraved, but over the course of the game your actions will put you in equal standing with him, and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that, but DS kept me wondering if Michael was a good man as much as the character did in voice overs. But that’s what the game does best, put you in uncomfortable situations that make the dystopian future feel real.

What I like the most though is that it’s effective in its use of ‘misery’. It’s not all pervasive and there are genuine moments of hope, which in turn make the bad moments so much more effective.

Michael’s memories and his life before the Great Wave, the prophetic ramblings of the dissolved and their link to our protagonist are central to the plot. Then there’s the Dead Synchronicity Point, the Annihilation of Time itself, which you experience in moments when the world shifts around Michael, showing him visions of the past and the future. These moments are surreal and intriguing, and give you clues as to what is going on before they give you the full exposition. In fact, the Synchronicity shifts tie into one of the best puzzles in the game.

Some of the dialogues feel forced and unnatural. People just don't talk like this.

Some of the dialogues feel forced and unnatural. People just don’t talk like this.

Sadly, the plot doesn’t really go anywhere as the game abruptly ends once you have your first set of real answers. The only thing missing was a To Be Continued message. As good as the setting is and as intrigued as I was by the plot, the end was a complete letdown. Fictiorama Studio builds up to a climax that leads nowhere. And it’s not an episodic game—I wouldn’t be reviewing it if that were the case. This is the first entry in a saga, meaning this is all we have until Fictiorama develop and release a sequel.

I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the expressionist art style of Dead Synchronicity when I saw the demo for it last year, but it gradually grew on me. Combined with the rusty Mad Max look of the world, the visual style adds to the grittiness and Michael’s dirty, blood-spattered shirt are a constant reminder of everything you’ve done throughout the game.

The Synchronicity shifts have a nice visual cue, with distortions and TV grain on the screen, making it all look like a badly tuned channel—for those of us old enough to remember what that was like. In terms of environments and cutscenes, Dead Synchronicity doesn’t shy away from going dark and some of the scenes and locations are incredibly disturbing, with Suicide Park being one of the most shocking ones, especially during a Synchronicity shift, as well as Colin’s fate.

When this game goes dark, it goes really dark!

When this game goes dark, it goes really dark!

Puzzle design in DS is a bit of a mixed bag. You will often use items for different purposes than intended, coming dangerously close to moon logic, but it feels natural for a scavenger setting, where you have to make do with what you have. Some of them can be extremely frustrating though, especially because as a norm, puzzles in Dead Synchronicity don’t follow the basic tenets of adventure game design. Solving one doesn’t always lead you to a new location or open the path to new items you can use to solve a previous puzzle, but instead they lead to roadblocks. One of the best examples is the sewer. Manage to open a manhole, climb down and see Michael come up again because he has no light. Find the flashlight for him and he goes down again before returning because he doesn’t have a map of the sewers. It’s not unusual for adventures to chain puzzles together, but give me a shopping a list, so I can know when I have everything I need to proceed. Every time I found myself solving a puzzle that led to another dead-end the frustration grew. It’s even worse when some of the item to solve a certain puzzle can only be acquired once you move on to another Chapter in the story with new locations and an altered “world state,” because it leads to dead ends and wasting time banging your head against the wall on a puzzle that is impossible to solve at that moment. And there are only rare instances where the character will say, “I can’t do anything with my current items.”

The sound shines through, both in terms of music and voice acting. The music is moody and gritty rock, with heavy electric guitar strums. The music blends into the background for the most part but during intense sequences and cutscenes it’ll ramp up and grip you completely. When I was trying to prevent an execution, the music kept me on edge through the entire sequence. Michael’s actor, Jeremiah Costello is outstanding. My second favourite would have to be the actress voicing Rose, the mentally disturbed prostitute in the camp—told you this game was dark—she sounds helpless and scared and you can’t help but want to protect her. The rest of the supporting cast is a bit mixed. Hunter’s actor, for example, fails at making the character truly intimidating, and every time he said ‘dude’ it felt forced, as if the actor had never used the word before in his life. Some of the dialogues don’t sound natural, a flaw in the game’s writing. I found myself saying, “People don’t talk like that…” quite often and you could feel it some of the performances, the actors struggling to remain convincing.

Conclusion

Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today greatest flaw is that it leads nowhere. In the face of this problem, the uneven and frustrating puzzle design and strange and forced dialogues are forgivable. The game has a fantastic setting, and handles its grittiness better than I’ve seen many games do in the past years and the visual and sound design is great, but it all ultimately feels pointless.

TMA SCORE:

3.5/5 – Good

3 responses to “Review: Dead Synchonicity: Tomorrow comes Today

  1. Pingback: Dead Synchronicity Review | KickstartVentures·

  2. Pingback: Dead Synchronicity·

  3. Pingback: Interview: Fictiorama Studios – Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today | The Mental Attic·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s