What if there was a way to preserve the memories of your loved ones, long after they have passed away? Would you even want such a thing to be possible? How would such a service even work? These are the questions that Master Reboot, an atmospheric first-person adventure title from Wales Interactive, seeks to answer.
In an undetermined point in the future, the way society deals with death will be changed with the invention of the Soul Cloud. By uploading the deceased’s souls and memories, their loved ones can experience these moments again and again for as long as they wish. You are cast in the role of a mysterious girl, who finds herself deep within a Soul Cloud and has to piece together who she is and why she has awoken there. In order to do so, you must travel from memory to memory, which are each housed in their own separate areas, and search for clues in the disguise of small blue ducks. This won’t be an easy task however, as there is another force out there seeking to stop you from figuring this mystery out.
In case you couldn’t tell from that description, Master Reboot is a bit of an odd duck. Not only is it a lofty and complicated premise, but Wales Interactive doesn’t hold your hand here and essentially sets you on your way with little explanation for what you need to do. Some may find this infuriating, and while some of the levels can be annoying to navigate due to the lack of instructions, I enjoyed trying to piece together this crafty story by myself.
Less enjoyable than the mysterious story, though, are the strong horror elements the game tries to implement. Borrowing a page from first-person shooter horror franchise F.E.A.R., Master Reboot also features a demonic girl with long black hair who would like to eliminate you. Some of the memories, such as the airplane level, are genuinely terrifying thanks to a mix of tense gameplay and well timed scares. However, the game often falls back on the trope of the “jump scare,” in order to try and put fear into the hearts of players. Sure, the first time a spooky girl pops out of a closet and grabs you is pretty shocking, but the numerous other times it happens during the story? Not so much. This aspect is disappointing because the idea of exploring someone’s memories is potentially a goldmine of psychological horror. Instead, we are stuck with the same old cheap scares.
Similar to fellow first-person adventure title Gone Home, Master Reboot centers more around exploration than combat. Sure, you have to fend off the attacks of the mysterious girl, but for the most part the game is about solving puzzles and exploring your surroundings. The puzzles in the game range from the simplistic, such as arranging a model of the Solar System in correct order, to the bizarrely abstract, such as the playground level, which forces you to collect shapes of assorted colors in order to trigger completely unspecific events. These puzzles can be tough, but I never felt they were particularly unfair.
Outside of puzzle solving, Master Reboot features a variety of levels that showcase separate gameplay styles. From dodging cars on a busy street to stealthily walking around an airplane, the game isn’t afraid to switch things up in order to keep boredom from setting in. The only sections of the game that became a chore to get through were the few platforming sections that come up. The clunky controls don’t lend themselves particularly well to the genre and this becomes a particular problem towards the end. Although this is only a limited portion of the game, it does lead to some unnecessary frustration.
A different aspect of the game that may further divide opinions is how Master Reboot looks. The graphics, for the most part, aren’t exactly stellar. Specific models, such as a bird that shows up in one level, are poorly rendered and the cutscenes look like bad Microsoft clip art. However, I can say that the game never looks dull. Whether it’s the gorgeous-looking forest you start out in or the cyber-space stylized section you end in, things always look unique.
When it comes down to it, there is nothing quite like Master Reboot out there. By using a first-person camera, the game allows players to uncover the mysteries of the Soul Cloud at their own pace and in their own way. Sure, its reliance on cheap jump scares and clunky gameplay may turn some off, but those that stick with the title will be rewarded with a unique and engaging meditation on grief and loss. Available at a cheap entry price and offering a brisk game length, Master Reboot is the perfect game to play through on a weekend.
This review was based off the PlayStation 3 version, which we were provided with.