Somerville review

Somerville is a recent release, one that had quite a lot of steam behind the marketing given it’s links to Playdead’s Limbo and Inside. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to those classic games, albeit having a wonderful tone throughout the game. The gameplay and puzzles don’t quite live up to the hype of the original trailers.

Somerville puts you in the shoes of a small family, who appear to be living a relativley normal life, then aliens land and start a mass invasion, and life as they kne wit is now over. The family is torn apart and it’s your job to reunite everyone. Jumpship, the developers of Somerville, share some DNA with Playdead, and there are hints of the greatness of Limbo and Inside here. There’s no dialogue, there’s tons of atmosphere, and it’s a side scrolling puzzler where you have to navigate through tricky environments. Somerville does give you a taste of a 3D environment, which switches up the gameplay nicely.

The opening hour of Somerville is very exciting, but after that it seems to tail off. The music, the tension, the visuals are all done very well, but after the opening bombast, it falls a little flat. The puzzles are uneven and the game tends to drag in the middle. The artwork is fantastic, from a visual perspective alone this is one of the best things I have seen all year, but unfortunately the gameplay doesn’t back up the visual treats.

Somerville is a decent Sci-fi tale, similar to something like War of the Worlds, with a modern spin on things. There are big set piece moments that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. The game does a great job of drawing emotion out of you, whether you are running away from a spotlight or walking through a refugee filled hospital. WHile there are big moments full of action, Somerville does quieter, emotional moments very well too.

In terms of the gameplay you have to make your way through the levels, although it’s more complex than Limbo, for example getting from the left side of the screen to the right. The alien invaders have left behind some dstrange matter, and this manages to amplify energy sources you have, for example light or electricity. It can also be used to clear paths to help you get through levels. Pull the trigger and you turn the strange alien stones into a liquid. Pull the other trigger and it goes back the other way, liquid into stone… and therein lays the puzzle mechanic.

Many of the puzzles are genius, for example where you have to displace water. Unfrotunately as the game goes on, the puzzles tend to drag, either becoming repetitive or going through the full array of what the puzzle mechanic can do. While it’s cool on firsyt inspection, it quickly becomes dry and doesn’t manage to hold my attention for the full length of the game. It’s not a long game by any means, it’s anywhere between 4-8 hours depending on how you play it, so it’s possible to finish in one or two sittings.

Somerville is largely let down by how the game feels and it’s puzzles. It looks and sounds great, and the story is interesting. Limbo and Playdead had been in 2D so perhaps the jump to 3D gameplay was a tricky to recapture that same feel. Many of the ingredients are here for a great game, it just never really allows you to get into the flow. This is compounded by technical issues. I played on PC via Xbox Game Pass, and it didn’t run that well.

Overall, I would recommend Somerville, there are genuine wow moments in the game, especially the opening hour or so. While the game doesn’t manage to keep the pace up for the whole game, it’s not too long and it’s visually stunning, plus nails the feeling of a sci-fi adventure. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass, so I’d reocmmend trying it out there.

Developer: Jumpship
Publisher: Jumpship
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One
Release date: 15th November 2022