Dead Synchronicity made me do something I don’t normally like to do in gaming, especially in story-based games: I quit in the middle of the game.
I had a choice to make. I could slog through the remaining two or three hours and hate every minute of it, or I could stop and play something else that made me happier (like Transformers Devastation!)
Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today was a Kickstarter-funded game, released on PC in 2015. It came to the PS4 last week. It is essentially the first half of a post-apocalyptic story whose second half has yet to be released.
In the game, you wake up in a dingy trailer after your character has been asleep for a long time. The player character, Michael, is trying to figure out who he is, how he got into this trailer and just what happened to the world. A cataclysmic event called the “Great Wave” has reduced civilization to living in trailers, tents and anywhere they can find a place to sleep. At the same time, a mysterious and dangerously contagious disease, with the infected known as “The Dissolved.” A shocking scene early in the game sees the seemingly government organization exterminating a person who is “Dissolved.”
It’s an interesting premise for a game — especially a story-based adventure game — but Dead Synchronicity just doesn’t capitalize on it. A major frustration whenever I start a game is the amount of time it takes to be given control. The first ten minutes of the game, after the awesome intro sequence, is the trailer’s owner espousing a lot of backstory in a non-interesting way. It’s exhibit 1A in why fiction needs to show their stories, rather that tell them.
The game only gets slightly better once the control is given. Playing on a console might simply be the wrong place to play this game. The cursor moves painfully slow, and while it’s possible to push the D-pad to move from item to item, it takes the challenge of finding a missed item away.
Adventure games can also be frustrating for me. While Dead Synchronicity has some puzzles that make sense, I wonder at the reasoning behind some of the solutions involved. How am I supposed to know that I need to take the pillowcase, tear it on the outstretched wire, douse it with whiskey and rub the dirty shoes with it before putting them on?
Or, just a little later on, you need to have talked with the bartender so you know that he’s looking to barter, and he has a stash of food, before you meet with the smoking woman. If you collect a pack of cigarettes and bottle of whiskey, then you can barter for the food with the bartender, which you need to give to the smoking woman so that she’ll give you a pass and you can leave the settlement.
While the items actually make sense — not a requirement in many other adventure games — you still need to either know exactly where to look, have blind luck or read a guide to get through it.
In the end, the combination of so-bad-it’s-funny voice acting, too-long “cut” scenes with little variety and obtuse adventure game puzzles led me to check out of the game about halfway through (as far as I can tell). The allure of finding out what happened before the opening credits just wasn’t enough to make me want to slog through the rest of the game.
Dead Synchronicity isn’t a terrible game, and it may be better suited for PC than the PS4. But it just didn’t click with me, with its sometimes obtuse puzzles, lengthy exposition and laughable voice acting.