“Do you wish to continue?”
Master Reboot is a first-person sci-fi/horror/puzzle game from Welsh indie studio Wales Interactive. You play as a woman exploring the virtual realm called the Soul Cloud: a data cloud which stores memory and personality data uploaded from people’s minds so that their loved ones can interact with a virtual representation of them after they die. Unfortunately, a malevolent force has taken control of the Soul Cloud and turned it into a kind of purgatory. In order to piece together what is going on with the Soul Cloud and eventually put an end to it, you’ll have to explore warped versions of memories that have been uploaded to it. Who you are, whose memories you’re exploring, and what’s behind the Soul Cloud being corrupted will be revealed as you encounter helpful tidbits of information along the way.
I’d also like to note that Master Reboot has two language options: English and Welsh. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Welsh as a language option in a video game.
Tron Meets Silent Hill
You’re traveling through a virtual world that often has a very virtual feel to it, yet wandering through a closed amusement park at night or making your way through a dark, empty hospital evokes that classic Silent Hill style of dread. It’s a combination that works very well to deliver an unsettling experience.
The Game’s Antagonist
I won’t say too much about her for spoiler reasons, but she’s present right from the start of the game. Whoever or whatever she is, she’s the one responsible for corrupting the Soul Cloud, and she wants to stop your progress. Her glowing eyes and unblinking stare convey pure malevolence.
This, my friends, is how you make simple graphics shine. Master Reboot isn’t the most graphically impressive game ever made, but it’s very pretty nonetheless. The secret to its pleasing aesthetics is atmospheric lighting that elevates the graphics and helps set the mood. An example from early in the game:
An Intriguing, Multi-Faceted Story
Not too long ago when I was in the middle of my Master Reboot play-through, I explained the game’s plot to somebody in a TAY comment. Now that I’ve finished the game, it turns out that my explanation was wrong. Things may not be exactly as they seem early in the game, as different pieces of information you pick up along the way will change the narrative and give you a better idea of what’s really going on. As it unfolds, Master Reboot’s story has the resonance of a quality episode of The Outer Limits.
The cutscene artwork looks like it was lifted straight from a webcomic. The art style can look jarringly goofy in this otherwise dark game, but some of the cutscene artwork is actually creepy.
There are also certain demonic paintings you come across over the course of the game that are very well done.
The 2D artwork that exists separately from your gameplay is something of a mixed bag overall, but I would say that the good outweighs the bad.
The sound effects in this game are creepy and add to the unsettling atmosphere. The problem is that the range of sound effects is limited, and the few that are in the game tend to be overused as a result. It’s not a huge problem and it’s nothing that really detracts from the gameplay, but it’s noticeable.
Master Reboot features what looks like enhanced Dreamcast or PS2 graphics. So it’s not exactly the most graphically advanced game on the market, but the good news is that it doesn’t need to be. You’re in a virtual setting, so highly detailed real-world realism isn’t a must.
You’ll encounter some weird and creative puzzles ranging from easy to somewhat difficult. I don’t know if this says something about me or if it says something about the puzzles, but I solved three of them completely by chance — blind trial and error. With two of those, I didn’t even know how they were supposed to have been solved until I watched Let’s Play videos of them. (And a couple of YouTubers I watched actually solved one of those by chance as well.) Also, there was one collection of puzzles I worked too hard to solve because the way they were presented made me think they were more complex than they actually were.
I think the puzzles are the least important part of what makes Master Reboot the game that it is, but they’re fine. One particular puzzle in the School Memory stage actually has one of the cooler aesthetics in the game.