Gaming needs to unfold in a whole new direction: I understand that, I get it. This isn’t the same plane that we came into where a player can simply expect a single title to encompass the entirety of a character’s storyline. Telltale has shown how episodic gaming can often lead to a much more fulfilling series of events, at the expense of taking several games. Even the classics, like Zelda have evolved beyond a simple “Save the princess” target and evolved into a multi-faceted, complex idea that spans several games to fully understand the timeline. But you can’t just release an episode of a game and expect the fans to give you fuel and fire to move onto the next chapter. Which is why it’s a shame that Dead Synchronicity has come to the Switch as is.
Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is the first chapter in the anticipated game series by the same name. It’s a dark and morbid affair starring Michael, a man who’s awoken with almost no memories, save his name, in a truly horrifying world. There’s been a calamity – called the Great Wave – that’s changed the course of human history. Many are dead, and more are becoming infected with a mysterious sickness every day. The infected are called “the dissolved,” as they slowly fade away from this world, and the government is doing their best to both contain and calm the people left alive. Michael is in a refugee camp of sorts, which feels more like a prison, and is determined to find answers to his own life as well as of this mysterious new world, and do his best to repay Rod, the man who saved him. Rod’s son, Colin, is a dissolved, and his time is running out.
Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today plays out in the course of a point and click adventure, and it’s a true blue PnC all the way down. Your joystick controls a floating mouse cursor which interacts with several different objects on screen, and you have the ability to collect items in an inventory that is ever expanding and sometimes just a boneyard. By the end of this chapter, you’ll have amassed several items that you only use once, never get rid of, and keep until the credits roll. This game is very true to the roots they reference (Monkey Island, The Dig, The Road) in focusing on the characters, not the gameplay, to help drive along the interest of the player. Having said that, I really wish someone would figure out how to use a mouse with motion controls: scrubbing along with a joystick driven cursor can feel slow sometimes, and even the inclusion of a “highlight” button (shows you where you can click on screen) doesn’t make the experience much better.
The voice acting and the scriptwork are excellent, I must say. Dead Synchronicity has done a fantastic job of weaving a tapestry of characters who remember what the Old World was like, are facing the reality of this New World, and are all dead long with it in their own way. Michael doesn’t need to talk to many people in any specific order, and the “required” dialogue branches are buried amidst important exposition that breeds sympathy, disgust and abject horror at those you talk to. From children who must now face no future to unsavory characters who thrive in chaos, you find that Michael really has to run the gamut with everyone that he interacts with. My only, ONLY complain was a very posh, well-spoken crime lord of sorts who inexplicably kept calling me “dude.” He has such eloquent words and an accent, seemed to really be the true “lawful evil” stereotype, and yet called me by a SoCal nickname. Totally rubbed me the wrong way.
Environmentally, I hope you like “bleak,” because there isn’t another setting in Dead Synchronicity. Everything, everything is muted, dark and washed out. When you find colors, it’s either in actual flashbacks that MIchael has (very few and far between) or in these weird temporal distortions that Michael occasionally suffered where he seems to see through time. I don’t want to straight up spoil the ending of the game, but anyone paying attention to what’s going on can guess what’s become of Michael within about six minutes of playing. Having said that, the game does its best to try and tease things out, basically make it seem as though it’s truly a guessing game right up until the big reveal. It does this by creating some of the darkest, shittest situations possible. I played a lot of Lucasarts games growing up, and none of them casually mentioned gang rape in any of them. If you’re sensitive to such subject matter I would highly advise steering clear, because, despite what high school may have told you, it doesn’t get any better.
In fact, I think that Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today takes a huge gamble and ultimately loses with the way and the style with which it chooses to present the tale. This isn’t a dark or morbid story: it’s straight up Nihilism without any real saving grace. We’re supposed to root for Michael to help save himself and everyone, but there’s almost no reason to actually believe that it can happen. The condition of Dead Synchronicity isn’t something as simple as a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion: it’s annihilation in a form that can’t be seen, touched or even confronted in a proper way. It’s a crazy fascinating take on the end of the world, because, in all sense of the idea, there’s not really a saving throw or savior that can definitely help out. And, due to being chapter driven and episodic, you end with a cliffhanger that basically makes the doom seem even more certain. The original release of Tomorrow Comes Today was years ago, and I get that this Switch port is probably setting out in order to attract attention, garner funds and hopefully drive towards the next leg of the journey.
But players have issue with investing emotions and time into characters they don’t like or can’t relate to. Telltale is able to secure IPs with a cult following, so even if Batman only releases one chapter at a time, you stick with him because, hey, Batman. But the adventures of Michael the amnesiac and Colin the dying, weirdly British kid isn’t enough to keep me hanging on in the weeks, months or even years before the next event takes place. I imagine several players are getting a sensation of D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, a game that may never see any kind of resolution due to outside influence and studio problems.
There’s so many fascinating aspects to Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today. It’s unique, it’s ultra-dark and it really does play out well, but it ends with no hope and no promise. It’s heavy, heavier than most, and, without a resolution already attached, I can’t see many players looking to lash their horses to this cart. Having said that, if you just need a healthy dose of “everything’s terrible” in your life, look no further, for this is the strongest pill you can swallow.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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