As Jumpship studio’s debut title, Somerville is a puzzle adventure game about a man trying to survive and find his family amid an alien invasion.
From an initial glance at Somerville, it seems the game’s similar to Playdead’s Inside and Limbo. However, Somerville’s gameplay is more focused on the puzzles and lore rather than the platforming sections.
Encounters with friendly humanoid alien creatures are one of the most defining features of the gameplay. They grant players the ability to manipulate the environment by using light to either liquify, harden or destroy foreign structures obstructing your journey. This offers a new take on this game genre where players are limited to their environment.
The lack of music and dull colors create a depressing atmosphere, making it seem like the more players progress through their journey the more hopeless it gets. The few moments of music or vivid colors emphasize emotional scenes adding to the dread or a brief glimpse of a silver lining.
With an absence of dialogue and text, much of the story is a mystery left for players to figure out. The game picks up in its third and final act as it dives deeper into the background of the mysterious humanoid aliens who’ve helped the protagonist, but it ends with a feeling of dissatisfaction as players are left with more questions than answers. There are multiple endings to the game — the one players experience is determined by the how they make progress — but they do nothing to shed light on the lore of either the humanoid allies or the invasion itself.
The lack of text also means that players are left to their own volition to play the game without any hints or tutorials. At times, this could impede progression as some sections in the game have more difficult puzzles. There are also other parts in the game where the controls get finicky and the character won’t react unless players move in a certain way.
In contrast, stealth sections and chase sequences of the game are easy to overcome as players use and hide away from the light to avoid wolf-like aliens that look similar to a Demogorgon from “Stranger Things.” These are a few moments filled with tension and require mostly puzzle-solving.
Somerville is a puzzle adventure game that lasts about four to five hours and warrants a few playthroughs to get a clearer picture of what exactly is happening in the story. There seems to be more freedom in experimenting to solve puzzles in a linear game compared to its counterparts.
The visuals and sound design do well in immersing players in its gloomy atmosphere and highlighting dramatic scenes in the game. Somerville is a fun game that has small issues on a few gameplay mechanics, but it’s an overall entertaining atmospheric game that piques the curiosity of players to explore this mysterious alien invasion.
Contact Andrew Kwak at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts, and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.