When I wrote about my experiences with The Turing Test last week, I think we fully established my love for sci-fi. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I loved event, another game from Rezzed that was set in a well realised sci-fi environment. The similarities to The Turing Test doesn’t just stop at the setting, as event could also be described as a puzzle game, though one that’s very different to The Turing Test.
While the puzzles in The Turing Test are more spatial, event is more about exploring the ship you find yourself on, the Nautilus. The catch is that much of this exploration is done by communicating with a slightly loopy AI named Kaizen through terminals that are dotted around the ship. You’re literally using your keyboard to type commands into these terminals, unlocking doors and gathering information.
While there’s certainly games that have worked along these lines in the past, the introduction of an AI to talk to is what helps to set event apart. You can question Kaizen as much or as little as you want, exploring the history of this sci-fi universe or simply working your through the game, but that’s not really the point. Instead you’re trying to form a relationship with Kaizen as you solve the mysteries of the Nautilus, which feels genuinely novel as a concept.
The fact that building a relationship with Kaizen feels different is certainly interesting in and of itself. Many games have you bonding with other characters, so is it the fact that Kaizen is a computer that changes things? Or is it the fact that you can try and have actual conversations with the AI instead of just following dialogue trees? Sure, there’s more scope for things to break, but there’s also a much greater chance of actually forming a bond with the character.
Back on the more puzzling side of the game, there’s the possibility that hacking the terminals may play a part of the game. One part of the demo has you run a specific program that grants you direct access to the computer’s memory so you can reconstruct the image of an eye to use with an iris scanner. While this was only a single puzzle in the area I got to play through, it certainly showed potential for some interesting puzzles that are out of the bounds of your conversations with Kaizen, but still placed within the context of interacting with computer terminals.
The only sticking point I can potentially see for many is the game’s control system. As you’re literally typing on your keyboard to interact with the terminals, WASD and arrow keys aren’t used for moving around the ship. You instead use your mouse to point where you want to go and click to move forwards. It’s an unconventional choice, and one that feels a little floaty at first. You do get used to it though, although I’d be interested to see how the game plays with a controller. While I’m sure the controls would feel a little tighter with a gamepad, it could also become frustrating to continually put the controller down to type on the keyboard, which isn’t really an issue with a mouse.
Aesthetically, the game seems to be pulling from several sources. While it’s clear that 2001: A Space Odyssey has had some influence on the design of the Nautilus, there’s more at play here. As the Nautilus was a prototype launched in the 80s, there’s definitely the feel of 70s and 80s interior design throughout, while the ship’s terminals look to be inspired by period appropriate computers like the DEC VT100 and the Commodore PET.
The narrative is probably the element I’m least clear on right now. The Nautilus seems to be both abandoned and in a state of disarray, with there being obvious damage to Kaizen’s systems. There’s also the Nautilus’ history to explore, particularly the fact it launched in the 1980s, seemingly at the behest of a travel agency.
There’s clearly something going on here, although for once it feels like you might be dealing with an AI that is far from sinister. If anything, Kaizen feels more apologetic than evil, as well as somewhat confused and disorientated due to damage to its memory banks. Of course, there may well be the chance for Kaizen to become more actively hostile towards you if your relationship heads in that direction, and I do wonder just how much influence that relationship has over the game’s overall story.
The core idea of event, building a connection with Kaizen, is one of the most unique I think I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly interesting to explore the game’s universe and solve the puzzles, but interacting with Kaizen is what it’s really all about. That idea alone is enough to pique my interest, and I’m very curious to see how players relationships with Kaizen differ and how that is reflected in your progress in the game.