A chain of natural disasters known as the Great Wave has left the world in ruin. Those who have survived are susceptible to a deadly plague running rampant through the land. The infected, known as the Dissolved, develop uncanny cognitive abilities before succumbing to great pain and dissolving into a pool of blood. On top of all this, the flow of time has begun to fluctuate strangely. If something isn’t done soon, reality will crumble entirely. This is the condition of the world that greets our protagonist Michael, who wakes from a coma remembering nothing.
Let’s count the tropes: Amnesia, post-apocalyptic setting, reality distortions, and a deadly plague. Fictiorama Studios’ Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today is unapologetic as regards its adherence to certain genre conventions, yet it combines them is a wonderfully compelling way.
In a bookstore in the city section of the game, Michael can examine shelves of DVDs and books. Disaster has somehow graciously spared the works of the game’s influences: John Carpenter, Philip K. Dick, Dario Argento, and H.G. Wells to list just a few notables. These influences place the game somewhere between horror, science fiction, and psychological thriller.
Dead Synchronicity does not attempt to reinvent these genres, no. Rather, it synthesizes the best aspects of each into one extremely well done point-and-click adventure.
What is most striking about Dead Synchronicity is that it’s exciting, a remarkably difficult thing to achieve in an adventure game. The tangible and multitudinous threats drive the excitement well enough, but it’s the plot’s remarkably fast pace that pushes the game into full force. Within a few short hours of this game the player encounters a park littered with the bodies of suicide victims, internment camps where local justice can shoot down anyone without remorse on sight, children about to be executed for murder, a psychologically scarred girl forced into prostitution, and startling government conspiracies. Regardless of one’s feelings about the generally calm gameplay of adventure games, Dead Synchronicity‘s plot is an intense ride.
The game’s soundtrack is composed by two members of the indie rock band Kovalski. It is absolutely essential to the overall thrill and feeling of Dead Synchronicity. The songs performed are darkly melodic and reminiscent of Goblin, the staple group featured in the Italian giallo films of Dario Argento. They suit game’s thematic context like a glove and bring out the intensity of Dead Synchronicity‘s like only hard, fast electric guitar wailing can.
It is a dark and strange post-apocalyptic world, yet it never feels over-the-top. The writing is of an excellent quality, averting any sense of ridiculousness despite the rather ridiculous amount of atrocities ravaging their way through the game world.
Dead Synchronicity is populated with shocked, pitiable, desperate people who are all struggling to survive. Some, like the enigmatic Hunter, stockpile supplies and gain power so as to control their surroundings. Others like Rod Atkinson, Michael’s savior, cling to their last shred of decency and humanity while everything around them collapses. The world features an intense range of reactions to the Great Wave, all wholly believable, formed within a stock of dynamic characters. The dialogue manages to be both satisfactorily expository (as necessary for an amnesiac player-character) and solidly full of personality. This makes for more sympathetic characters within a more convincing universe, thus making their plight within the cataclysm that much more harrowing to experience.
And what a universe Dead Synchronicity brings to the eyes. A blend of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Goya’s The Third of May 1808, every screen in this game feels like it could be a painting. A dark, twisted (literally and figuratively), bloody painting. The sharp, angular look of both the characters and the environments is reminiscent of expressionism. The use of colors is somewhat washed out and desolate – necessary for the intended vision of the apocalypse – yet still effectively beautiful. The composition of each screen feels like a film still, with cinematic precision informing the perspective. (Every character within the game may also be a relative of Brock from Pokèmon, as their faces are stylized in such a way that leaves their eyes permanently closed.) Fictiorama Studios has created a gorgeous point-and-click adventure game, and their partnership with Daedalic Entertainment, who is known for their exceedingly pretty games, seems to have made it that much more polished.
Fictiorama Studios approach to gameplay is similar to its approach to plot: Retreading old ground, but retreading it well. One will find the standard point-and-click adventure experience here, with dialogue and inventory puzzles spread across a relatively large environment. Pixel hunting has been removed with the addition of a highlighting key, something that this reviewer appreciated beyond measure. Aside from a handful of slightly less-than-obvious solutions (Hint: Fixing the camera may or may not involve using a body part for some reason) Dead Synchronicity features a host of enjoyable lateral thinking puzzles.
Dead Synchronicity is the first half of a two part series. Thankfully it doesn’t feel like a premature release. Altogether it should take about four hours to complete. Its roller coaster of a story arc leaves the player eager for the next installment while still offering a satisfying amount of play for the time being. Just enough for the player to be happy with their purchase, but not so little that they want more right away.
Check out Dead Synchronicity at Good Old Games here.
A copy of the game was provided by the developer for review on PC.
Dead Synchronicity makes a generally calm genre exciting and cleverly blends old horror and sci-fi tropes into a stylish new post-apocalyptic tale.