Caves can be terrifying. Probably due to the fact that they're pitch dark and full of weird sounds. Scanner Sombre places you in a cave and gives you one of the most novel ways to explore it, uncovering the mystery buried inside of it in the process.
You play as a man who finds himself at the heart of a giant cave system. He's exploring it, claiming he's looking for proof of a cult that used to live there. From the start, it's pretty clear he has a different motive than the one directly stated. You'll learn of his family life and the events leading up to his current trip, along with the history of the cave. I appreciate how Scanner Sombre slowly gives out these details, and it kept me hooked the entire time.
The real reason the game caught my eye is how you explore the world of Scanner Sombre. Since the entire cave is pitch black, you can't see. You also have no flashlights or light sources of any kind. Instead, you have an augmented reality goggle and a scanner that shoots lasers in front of you. Each time the laser makes contact with an object it will place a dot in that spot, marking it forever. Utilizing this, you'll quickly learn how to scan the cave in front of you and move about with these dots as your only reference to what the world looks like. It's visually impressive. At the same time, it's strange that a game made up of nothing but little dots manages to be one of the surprisingly lovely games I've gotten a chance to play.
As you advance further, you find upgrades for your laser. At first, this is just the ability to either focus the laser to a small heavily-dotted area or spread it out over a wide range. Later, you get the ability to view the entire world as a map or use a burst scan that gets the whole area in front of you in one go. No matter which ability you use, looking over your work and watching the dots come together in front of you is addicting in such a good way. I would scan areas with extra thoroughness just to be absolutely sure all the dots were there. I felt like the kind of person who makes maps for Metroidvanias.
Naturally, the caves aren't entirely safe. There's the obvious threat that, if you don't watch your step, you can fall. You have to be careful to make sure you've scanned an area to the full extent of your abilities because falling down a cliff is a fatal activity you don't want to participate in. It's also easy to get lost in the caves. As you may expect when everything is pitch black and you need to map your own progress, it's possible to miss a little nook or cranny you're expected to find to advance. This can make for occasional frustrating games of pixel hunting, and I never really liked it when that came up. Of course, there are also some spooky supernatural threats in the caves, but it's best you find out about those on your own.
I'm not really sure what I expected from Scanner Sombre, but I came away from the game quite entertained. While it may have occasionally frustrated by having to figure out where to go, the simple act of making the cave full of navigable dots is fun. Thankfully, just as this mechanic started to grow old, Scanner Sombre ended, making for a sweet horror treat.
Scanner Sombre was played on PC using a copy provided by the developer.