Somerville is a third-person adventure game and is the debut title from indie studio Jumpship. Jumpship was co-founded by Dino Patti (previously Playdead) who worked on such indie classics as Limbo and Inside. If you have ever played either of those games you will be instantly familiar with whats on offer here as well. Somerville was originally released in November 2022 on PC and Xbox consoles but has now been released onto the Playstation platforms. The game is set in a small town in England during an alien invasion. The game is played from a third-person perspective and features a variety of puzzles that the player must solve in order to progress through the story.
The story of Somerville begins with a family of four - Tom, his wife Sarah, their young son Peter, and their dog Charlie - returning home from an outing. As they sleep in front of the TV, massive obelisk-like alien vessels descend from the skies. A human military organization launches a counterattack against the invaders, and the battle between both sides rains destruction across the land.
Tom, Sarah, Peter, and Charlie are separated during the chaos. Tom wakes up to find his house destroyed and his family gone. Along the way, Tom encounters other survivors, including a group of soldiers who are trying to evacuate people from the city. He also encounters the alien creatures, which are hostile and dangerous.
Somerville is notable for its minimalist storytelling. The game does not feature any dialogue, and the story is told through the environment, the characters' actions, and the player's own interpretation. This approach to storytelling can be both effective and frustrating, depending on what kind of gamer you are, especially as it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. The player can use three alien powers in Somerville:
Blue energy: This is the most basic power, and it can be used to soften the alien substance that the aliens use to build their structures. This can be used to create platforms to climb, soften obstacles, and even defeat enemies.
Red energy: This power hardens the alien substance, making it more resistant to damage. This can be used to create protective barriers, or to make it more difficult for enemies to move around.
Purple energy: This power attracts and repulses the alien substance. This can be used to create traps for enemies, or to move objects around the environment.
The player can use these powers to solve puzzles, explore the environment, and defeat enemies. The powers are limited, so the player must use them wisely.
The graphics in Somerville are cel-shaded, giving the game a unique and memorable look. The environments are well-designed and atmospheric, helping to create a sense of dread and suspense. The game takes place in a variety of locations, including a suburban neighborhood, a forest, and an alien mothership. Each location is carefully crafted to create a specific mood or atmosphere. The character models are also well-animated and expressive which is needed because of the lack of dialogue in game. The camera in Somerville is a fixed third-person perspective. This means that the camera is always positioned behind the player, but it does not move with the player. The camera is also relatively zoomed out, which gives the player a good view of the environment.
The fixed camera can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it helps to create a sense of claustrophobia and tension, as the player is always aware of the dangers that lurk around them. On the other hand, it can make it difficult to see certain objects or enemies, and it can also be disorienting when the player is moving around quickly.
Solve the puzzles of an altered landscape drenched in alien sediment
Flee, hide from or negotiate dangerous encounters
Observe and learn form every alien entity
Dig deep and find your way to multiple endings, their meaning and significance
Unique visual style
Effective minimalist storytelling
Simple but challenging puzzles
Can be frustrating at times
Lack of dialogue can be limiting
Some issues with the physics
Somerville is a solid puzzle-adventure game with a unique visual style and a minimalist storytelling approach. The game is not without its flaws, but it is still an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience despite an at times annoying camera and the odd physics issue. What you get from the story and how its presented all depends on how you interpret whats in-front of you, so your enjoyment of the game will hang on that, but if it clicks you will find an interesting little adventure to throw yourself into. TOTAL SCORE: 7/10
Somerville was released onto the Playstation store on the 31st August 2023. The game is playable on PS4 and PS5 consoles. Priced at £19.99 the game can be purchased HERE.
A copy of the game was provided for this review. A big thanks for that.