☆ Review: Scanner Sombre - "Bar-code Scanners At The Ready!!!" ☆

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Scanner Sombre - PC
Throughout this video game review I will refrain from describing the story as a large part of the game is discovering information about the character you play and gaining an insight into their situation.
Scanner Sombre is the newest video game from Introversion Software. I haven’t played any of their games before but a quick ‘scan’ of their past titles’ Metacritic scores clearly shows that Introversion know what they are doing, and they do it well.
Billed as a short exploration video game, Scanner Sombre begins without an introduction, you start alone in a small tent surrounded by supplies and an ominous picture of a happy family propped amongst the belongings. There is a distant blinking sound and penetrating the surrounding total darkness is a flashing red light, so far, so mysterious.
Upon picking up the LIDAR scanner (‘Which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges’ – thank you Wikipedia) you begin to scan your surroundings so as to enable you to traverse the cave system.
“Geez, you really are a wizard with that bar-code scanner, how many years did you say you worked on the till at Woolworths before getting into spelunking?”
The LIDAR Scanner lights up the surroundings in a pattern of multi-coloured dots, the game is spent navigating your way through underground caves in a linear path and discovering more about your predicament. The scanning system works by blue representing landscape that is far away with the colour changing to red the closer you get to it. Controls in the game are simple, the right trigger fires your scanner up and the usual FPS rules apply with regards to movement. Other buttons come into play as you pick up various additions to your scanner throughout the game.
The music in Scanner Sombre ties in perfectly with the gameplay, certain cues altering the mood as you head deeper into the caves a perfect ambient backdrop to match the unhurried pacing.
I have to say that I was concerned that the game would take the route of tediously requiring me to collect batteries whilst randomly throwing in cheap jump-scares but I’m pleased to say that this is not the case. Whilst the game does have some *ahem* ‘moments’, and the overall mood of the game is one of rising tension, the unveiling of the character’s situation unfolds nicely.

That said, there are a few areas in the game that you discover that seem somewhat underdeveloped. As I played through some sections I was expecting a couple of specific things to happen which didn’t and occasionally it felt like a missed opportunity in some cases. (Again, apologies for seeming vague here but I’m trying not to give anything away, story-wise)
The main conceit of the game, in that you are ‘painting’ your own surroundings is extremely effective and very beautiful, whilst there have been comparisons to Dear Esther and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, for me there is also a strong nod to The Unfinished Swan. Whilst the game’s minimal narrative and style do work to its benefit, due to the nature of the genre, the play time is quite short.
For example, I felt like I played through the game at a leisurely pace and I completed it in under two hours without needing the use of any online guides or tips. I have seen some reviews which describe the game as feeling like a tech demo as opposed to a fully-fledged game but I would disagree with this assessment in that whilst the game is short, it keeps it punchy and I personally didn’t find the main gameplay mechanic tiring.
I preferred this to say, Alien Isolation which I lost interest in after a few hours of hiding in cupboards (and which I understand drags on for around 25 hours in total). That said, this game won’t be for everyone. There is barely any challenge involved, it is possible to die in the game from falling from a great height, etc, but the game regularly auto-saves so you are never placed too far back. The game is far more focused on creating the tension and atmosphere that drives the narrative rather than challenging you.
"This isn’t ominous at all."
Due to the length of the game, I would day the current Steam price of £9 is probably the upper echelon of what I would pay for a game of this length and with this level of challenge, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the game and I hope that this game mechanic is built on and we similar games perhaps with more interactivity although hopefully no battery/page collecting…
Thinking about it now, I can imagine Scanner Sombre would make for an amazing VR experience.
Right, I’m off to play Barcode Battler.


Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Just Falls Short Of Greatness)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: Introversion

Reviewed By Britt
(from @kingdomofcarts)


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