Really good psychological horror has been… well… lacking recently. Part of that is the collective realization that we, as a society, haven’t been terribly great at addressing mental health issues. And part of that is due to a shift in gaming culture. A good chunk of people simply prefer something a bit brisker and more accessible than your usual pants-shittingly terrifying, white-knuckle survival game.Observer is anathema to that. Presented as a mishmash of dystopic cyberpunk and hefty, unnerving atmosphere, it’s a refreshing twist on a classic genre. You play as the observer, essentially a far-future police officer who investigates crimes with the help of a suite of cybernetic augmentations. You can scan for biological evidence in the middle of a crime scene, and even sense electromagnetic fields. But, the most affecting enhancement is a cable that allows you to “jack in” to the memories of someone else.Once you’re in you can wander a dreamscape, always shifting and twisting around you, while hunting for clues. The problem, of course, is that memories, much like dreams, aren’t stable. As you search hallways and rifle through cabinets, the world around you will distort and change. Sometimes, you’ll enter a room, turn around, and find yourself in a totally different local. At others, you’ll be trapped in an endless maze until you work out a simple puzzle.All the while, though, you’re subjected to surreal and disturbing imagery and illusory monsters. IN so doing, Observer pulls away from direct physical threats, and toys with the idea that literal fear is, in itself, a monster worth of a survival horror romp.In any case, the warped reality and constant shuffling of Observer’s world is a fresh take on an old staple. Expect it out later this year.
September 20, 2019