Somerville Review (PS5) | Push Square

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Somerville is an atmospheric, 2.5D, narrative adventure game from indie developer Jumpship. Created partly by co-founder of Playdead, Dino Patti, it’s clear this title’s inspiration came from the likes of Limbo, Inside, and Little Nightmares. Somerville takes on silent storytelling through gorgeous environments and touching family scenes as you take on the role of a father to a little boy. When an alien invasion separates you from your family, you head out in the hopes of reuniting with them and finding shelter to survive the onslaught.

Along your journey to reconvene with your family, you’ll be exploring various gorgeous environments — forests, scrapyards, shops, etc. — and solving simple puzzles to safely navigate them. These conundrums have you wandering around dark and dingy areas spamming X to figure out what items are interactive, since there are no hints or prompts, and your vision is hindered by the fixed camera and low lighting. Once you’ve squinted long enough to make out the interactive objects, you must precisely position yourself to be able to use them, which is an incredibly infuriating task.

The puzzles are enjoyably straightforward, however, involving pushing and pulling mine carts to climb, starting up generators to power lights, and using movable cover to avoid insta-death laser beams. Even with the introduction of a couple of light-manipulating powers, the puzzle blockades never held us up longer than a couple of minutes, making for a short but sweet five-to-six-hour experience all told.

Although Somerville has some standout features, gorgeously peaceful environments, and atmospheric, silent storytelling, they’re somewhat dulled by its terrible controls, awful performance, and lack of exposition. Being restricted to walking pace and the path forward often unclear, you frequently end up walking into invisible barriers. There are huge drops in frame rate throughout, especially when loading new areas, and the lack of names and backstories for the family you’re playing leaves you frustrated with little to no attachment to them and their eventual outcomes. If you’re looking for a short, touching title to tide you over until the next big release, this may be worth a look, but with all its issues, it’s better off left alone in the dark.

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