‘Point And Click’ Me To The Exit Please
Synchronicity is defined as a concept stating that events are meaningful coincidences if they occur with no causal relationship but have some meaning in their relation. Dead Synchronicity would seem to be the opposite then; claiming that there are no coincidences and implying instead a sense of fate, if one chose to stretch their imagination a bit. How this ties in with the overarching story of the game, I don’t know. Fate never comes up. In fact, the word isn’t even used once. While the point of the title is elaborated on towards the end of the game, the apparent literal definition of it is not to be thought about too much, which I fear is something the title shared with the plot.
Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is a point-and-click post-apocalyptic adventure with a few RPG mechanics thrown in. You play as Michael, though you don’t know it at first because the game uses the same exhausted trope every survival horror story starts with – you wake up from a coma. In this instance, Michael also has no memory of himself. You are tended to by a man named Rod, who informs you of the state you were found in and that he and his wife have taken care of you for weeks as you slept on their sofa bed. Apparently, as you enacted the part of Sleeping Beauty, the world came to an end in an event that is referred to by everyone from here on out as “The Great Wave”. This was not a tsunami, not even a hurricane. Little information is given to you about what this is save for it being a near world-ending cataclysm that has left the remainder of civilization in a state so crippled that there is no hope of coming back. There is also a giant scar left in the sky from said cataclysm. This, I believe, is intended to be foreboding to the player, but it is only ever seen twice in the game and is easily forgotten each time soon thereafter.
Technology has been wiped out, cities have been almost fully razed to the ground, and martial law has taken effect. You, Rod, and a small sliver of society are now eking out a hopeless living in a refugee camp where the supplies and human compassion are running shorter everyday. To make matters worse, a plague has broken out and killing off all those who come into contact with it. Those that suffer from it are simply called “the dissolved” because the final stage of sickness is their bodies literally melting at the molecular level, leaving nothing but brown sludge in their wake. Not only that, but they are apparently able to travel back and forth through time (via a kind of astral projection), travel through a dimension called “The Underground Highways” and speak with the dead before this point. Very unusual side effects for being “sick”, but this nevertheless has the existing authorities worried, so those who contract the disease are quarantined immediately and often violently. Unfortunately, Michael quickly learns that Rod’s son, Colin, is one of these unfortunate creatures and as repayment for saving Michael’s life Rod implores him to go to the city to find the cure. Michael, being the upstanding, albeit blank minded person that he is, agrees and ventures forth into the unknown.
This very long introduction which holds about as much sense as a David Lynch film finally ends here. You are now in control of Michael, and given no tutorial or instruction as to how to progress. The trailer is thankfully small and offers very little in which the player needs to suss through, but this becomes frustrating very quickly as you cannot move forward after a few minutes of leaving Rod’s trailer. The puzzles are at times nonsensical, and at other times overly complicated in ways that they shouldn’t be. This left me looking for a walk through guide before the first of four chapters had come to a close. For example, after another plot developing cut scene explaining “the dissolved” and just what happens to them when the military finds a person infected with the disease, Michael explores the yard just outside of the trailer and slices his bare foot on a rusty nail. Why he opted to go outside without shoes in the first place aside, he is now bleeding and feels that he ought to tend to the wound before continuing. The natural linear progression would be to return to the trailer, knock on Rod’s door, ask him to unlock the closet you were given access to, wrap your foot with the sheets from the sofa bed, and continue on, but that is not what happens. The problem is actually solved in this manner:
- Speak to the homeless man at the drum barrel (about nothing specific, simply exhaust all conversation options to learn more about the state of the world).
- If you haven’t already, go back into the trailer, get the pot lid and the notebook from the oven.
- Place the pot lid from your inventory on top of the drum barrel. This will create a smoke stack to seep out of the bullet hole at its side and begin to asphyxiate the man sitting next to the barrel.
- As he gasps for air, take the time to rummage through his shopping cart and steal a busted credit card.
- Return to the trailer and use the credit card to jimmy the lock.
- Steal the whiskey and the pillow case.
- Pull back the sheets on your makeshift bed if you hadn’t already, and shred the pillowcase against the protruding mattress spring.
- Soak pillowcase shreds with whiskey.
- Wrap foot, then take shoes and put those on.
This seems convoluted at best and wasteful at worst. It also sets the bar for the obscurity of some solutions throughout the game.
For the most part the game has an interesting narrative. Many of the characters Michael meets have their own story that manifests its own interwoven interlude into Michael’s journey which becomes very important as he solves the mystery not only of what happened to the world, but the mystery of who he was. Like any quest of self discovery, he comes to learn things about himself that would have been better to have stayed lost, but these moments bear little weight toward the end of the story as they are overwhelmed by the impending doom that is hurtling toward the human race.
At the end of the game Michael has pieced together his past, learned that his wife was in fact one of the first to become a “dissolved” (she’s deceased prior to the beginning of the game), and tracked down one of his friends from the days before The Great Wave. As it turns out, both of them worked for a newspaper called The New Truth. A report from an unknown source is obtained by the duo, explaining what is happening to the world and how it can all be stopped. Apparently, the space-time continuum is collapsing on a galactic scale. The plane of time is folding in on itself and life as it is known will currently cease to exist. The people known as “the dissolved” were the first to fall because their bodies were so sensitive to the change in the laws of physics that their bodies simply dissolved. Makes sense, right?
Don’t worry, I was lost too, and it wasn’t explained in the game nearly as nicely as written here.
We’re given a quick dialogue exchange in which Chris, Michael’s friend, says that Michael is the only one that can stop this. If they access the Dead Synchronicity Point (the time at which all of this will coalesce and take effect) at the right time, they could use it to time travel and stop all of this from happening. Given that this is a galactic event that, we can only presume, is happening naturally, it’s hard to imagine how humanity can stop it any more than it can stop the inevitable heat death of the universe. Before they start planning on exactly how they’re going to approach this incredible undertaking, Michael asks Chris to test him for being a “dissolved”, and to Michael’s horror, it turns up positive. As he reacts to this news, the screen goes to a recap of all of the times he enjoyed with his wife, ending with him waking up in his first trance in the Underground Highways accompanied by her. The game ends here, presumably with the world coming to an end shortly thereafter.
This lead to a very disappointing ending, just when the plot really took off, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth. The adventure is mostly worth it. The art is a very stylized cell shading that creates the perfect tone for Dead Synchronicity’s overall theme given the limited color palette. There’s little music, but there doesn’t really need to be. With the exception of a few characters even the voice acting is quite well done. What really fell apart for this game, more than the convoluted puzzle structure and the dialogue sequences that ran just a little too long, was the story, and it is because of that that I gave Dead Synchronicity the rating that it has.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Dead Synchronicity is available on the PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Android market, iOS market, Steam and Mac for $19.99 US. It was published by Daedalic Games and developed by Fictiorama Studios.
It was published by Daedalic Games and developed by Fictiorama Studios.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.