Scanner Sombre Review
Scanner Sombre Review
A contemplative exploration game with an innovative user interface
Posted: 05/25/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Introversion Software | Platform: Windows, Mac

Genre: Contemplative Exploration
Release date: April 26, 2017

Ever since you learned about the ancient cult that performed their dark rituals underground, you have been searching for their temple. You've explored countless caves, but all have been empty. Your wife and children don’t understand your obsession. Neither do your friends. Perhaps you don’t either…

I wanted to hate this game. Ten seconds into the game and I really wanted to hate it. Thirty seconds in and I wanted to hate it with an unending passion. The game had set off several of my trigger points, but I was willing to set personal feelings aside and give it a chance. Who knows, the developers might make it work.

Scanner Sombre begins with you in an illuminated tent filled with various supplies. You cannot interact with anything. It is pitch black outside with only a small point of light in the distance. You walk to the light. (Movement is classic WASD + mouse. Space bar to jump.) 

The light is coming from a LIDAR (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) kit consisting of a pair of VR goggles and a scanner. You automatically put them on when you get close enough. Any place in the game where you need to interact with something, just get close enough and the magic will happen. 

This is where things get cool. Left mouse button triggers the scanner which sends out a random pattern of laser bursts. When ever a laser hits something it shows up as a color-coded point of light – red for near and blue for far. It’s like the whole world is flat black until you spray it with micro paint balls. The more you scan an object the more solid it appears. Check out the screenshots.

You can now explore a 3D world of colored dots of your own making. Just remember to scan the ground for any pits. Also, just because you scanned the front of an object doesn’t mean you know what its backside looks like. It doesn’t take you long to realize there is only one path out of here.

Plot/continuity hole: As you walk around in this virtual world of dots, do you ever wonder how the goggles know you are moving? It’s not as if you can get GPS down here. Also, how is it that you see wavy reflections off the water and why does your own arm with the scanner look real? OK, so the goggles are magic. But the effect is really cool.

As you carefully explore the caverns and tunnels you will occasionally think about what you are doing and thus fill in a backstory. It is all very relaxing and contemplative. Except for the parts that can kill you.

Yes, you can die in this game. I died twice.  But you immediately re-spawn in the last safe place. I would give you two simple pieces of advice: (1) learn how far you can jump, and (2) should you see or hear anything weird, leave!

So why did I want to hate this game so badly?  Well, back in the day I played a game called Infidel  by Infocom. It's the first computer game to explore an Egyptian pyramid. The game starts with you waking up alone in your tent. You are an archaeologist and all the workers have abandoned you because you foolishly tried to force them to work on a holy day. Rather than wait for help, you press on and find the pyramid on your own. You enter and explore and solve many puzzles. But solving the final puzzle causes the doors to slam shut and you are trapped for all eternity.

Gee, if only you had treated your workers better there would be plenty of people to help you get out. But because you were stupid no one even knows where you are.

Wait a minute, I don’t remember being asked to make that choice. The game forces you to do "the stupid" and then punishes you for it at the end. I wasn’t the only one to take umbrage. Pretty much everyone who played that game hated the ending.

Ever since then I have hated any game which forced you to do "the stupid."

Back to Scanner Sombre… What is the first rule of cave exploration? The rule you never break under ANY circumstance? Never go alone. The reasons should be obvious.

How does the game start? With you exploring a cave all alone. How does the game continue?  With you going off without taking any of your supplies. Not only was I forced to do "the stupid," but the game seemed to rub it in.

I am glad I gave it a chance. The exploration itself is quite fun and it turns out that the storyline requires you to make those initial decisions. The ending will leave you thinking rather than angry.

Introversion Software  is known for delivering highly creative games. Awhile back I gave them an “A” for their innovative Darwinia. Scanner Sombre is no exception. It is innovative and very enjoyable. I recommend checking this out, and their other games as well.

Grade: A-
 
Innovative game play mechanic
+ Very atmospheric
Environmental puzzles
Well-designed exploration
 
+/- No obvious goal
 
- A few plot holes
 Logo 
 
If you liked this game, then 
Read: Adventures in the Afterlife by William Buhlman
 
Trailer 
 
 

 

System Requirements
 
MINIMUM Windows:
OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 (64-bit only)
Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.3 GHz or AMD Phenom II x4 940 @ 3.0 GHz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz
Memory: 4 
GB RAM
Graphics: Radeon HD 2000/GeForce 8
Direct X: Version 10
Storage: 3 GB 
Mouse, keyboard 
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: Mac OSX 10.9 or later (64-bit only)
Processor: 64-bit Processor
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Storage: 3 GB 
Mouse, keyboard 
Specials from Digital Download
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