Narcosis Review

There are many programmes on TV that show us the wonders of the underwater realm and it looks so splendid and colourful, but of course there's a darker side to things. It's a dangerous environment that should be treated with respect, and handled with caution. This game takes us to the dark side and shows us that at least in video games, things can take a damned right dangerous and perhaps supernatural turn for the worst.

At some undetermined point of time, man has decided to explore the ocean depths for research and maybe possible colonisation. Sounds fine on paper right?

Anyway the action centres around Echo 1, an underwater research station where, rather predictably, something has gone wrong and after an S.O.S, communication has been lost.  So it's up to you as the game's nameless protagonist to get down there and find out what the hell has gone wrong. Suited up in an underwater exploration suit, and given a handful of flares and a knife, you set off not knowing what to expect, but you can bet it ain't good news.

Slowly does it....

Needless to say you cannot move very fast in this get up. There is an aquatic propulsion boost, however, that means you can have a brief burst of speed if not manoeuvrability, this unit recharges over time. Your view is obviously restricted by the device's helmet (more on this in a bit) and it's damned dark down there. Thankfully apart from the flares, you do possess a flashlight for probing the murky depths below.

Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe....

Now the O2 cylinder is your best friend. It's literally is your life line and as long as you can control your breath, and use O2 sparingly, you are fine. However there are times when panic hits, and well, you'd better find another cylinder pretty darned quickly.

And trust me there are plenty of things that can make you expel precious air in panic, from being shocked when finding corpses, being threatened by aquatic earth tremors and attack from the wildlife (Cuttlefish, primarily) and jumping when hearing an unexpected bang, loud creak and what not. Keep an eye on the O2 gauge as that is your health bar and it goes down fast, bloody fast when the scares come.

A sense of familiarity...

Within moments of starting this I felt that I was in reasonably known territory. Imagine Everyone's Gone to the Rapture, mixed with Layers of Fear and a touch of the Turing Test, and shift the action to several leagues under the sea and that's what you have here.

The action is not going to come thick and fast, no it's going to come in gradually.

Sights, sounds etc

The ambient sounds and moody lighting add to the suspense nicely and jump scares genuinely evoke the intended reactions. So what's not too like about that eh? Well....

Like I said slowly does it...

Obviously you cannot move very fast, but that's not the main problem with the crawling pace of exploration, heck no. It's the view from the helmet. Of course it does not have a wide field of view, but there are times when it appears as if the helmet has somehow been knocked askew and you now discover that you cannot look directly ahead. The helmet being knocked sideways does make sense but why is it seemingly tilted diagonally? This makes no sense and is a real pain in the ass as there is no way to manually readjust it. It sort of fixes itself, but boy it's so annoying.

The game also lacks any kind of in game mapping system, and also there are no player hints that means I found myself going over the same old ground over and over and over, without being given any hint at all as to where to go.

Now we moan if games lead us by the hand or nose, true, but when they offer no assistance at all it's not only the in game tension that mounts, it's the stress that may lead to temper being lost.

Plusses and minuses...

OK I am not going to give any plot details away, a) we don't do spoilers and b) I did not finish it before review. Not because I couldn't, but it's because I just couldn't be arsed to do so. Look a jump scare works great the first time, but if it's repeated, all it does is drain the O2 supply and begins to grate.  

Layers of Fear worked because once you have met the 'jump scare', it knows you are going to meet it again if you die, and doesn't punish you for it again. This however does not. In reality, once you have seen a Moray Eel lunge at you from a broken pipe, you would approach with caution, perhaps with knife drawn and deal with it without crapping yourself in game. No. Our hero is constantly reminded that it's not only a fart in a diving suit that's unwelcome.

So I'll sum up and give the final verdict. I'll break it down for you.

Plus points

Atmosphere: Check. Ambient sounds and lighting are admittedly really nicely executed

Sense of mystery: Check. It's there OK. Not as well utilised as other titles like this but it does have a potentially immersive tale.


Lack of player aid and help (see above), at least the O2 and flares replenish themselves frequently

POV: restricted (makes sense) but when the helmet gets knocked and it becomes skewed, it's a real pain in the ass. 

Someone please at least give me a tiny hint as to where the heck I should be going?

I found myself going over and over the same stretch of territory until I got confused and exasperated.  Oh and I really got fed up of picking up the same lost crewmen's files over and over. In other games, collect data and move on, not here though.

Replay value, little or none.

Desire to finish it? For me it's just not there.

In a nutshell

It has potential but just does not live up too it. Looks good, and sounds great but oh my, it falls short in too many other departments. This will appeal to those that have a great deal of patience and tolerance, if you don't have those in great abundance stay clear.

It's not a total disaster, just not to my taste.

Thanks Xbox for the code.