Fear Effect: Sedna is the answer to a question only a select few dedicated gamers of a certain age were asking. It's the Kickstarter-funded sequel to two cult action games and an unreleased third game from the PS1 era. If that sounds like a slightly odd list of ingredients for a modern Switch game, then you're onto something. Fear Effect: Sedna is, indeed, a strange mish-mash. Sushee's game is part puzzler, part squad-strategy game, part twin-stick shooter, and part stealth game. The main problem here is that the execution isn't particularly great with any of those components.
Main characters Hana and Rain are partners in life and in work, serving as globe-trotting mercenaries on a futuristic Earth. When they're offered a large amount of money for what appears to be a routine art heist they stumble into old teammates Glas and Deke, as well as a mystery concerning Inuit mythology and gene splicing.
The theme of the game's story is an apt one, as the game is something of a Frankenstein's monster. This is ostensibly a twin-stick action game, with the core requirement that you move around confined environments exchanging fire with gangs of armed thugs. However, the game has the zoomed-out isometric perspective, cover mechanics and team mate-switching ability of a squad-based strategy game. You can even pause the action with '-' and issue commands to each member before resuming. It's also possible to observe the movement patterns and vision cones of your unaware enemies, sneak up on them and take them down with a single hit.
Whichever approach you choose, Fear Effect: Sedna doesn't quite hit the target. Its action lacks the visceral feedback and precise aiming of, say, Enter The Gungeon. Lock-on is automatic, so you simply press ZR to fire your pop-gun until the enemy falls over - or until you do. In the case of the latter, control switches to one of your team mates, where you continue to grind down those enemy energy bars. Once your last foe keels over, your downed squad member miraculously revives. It all feels a bit flat, even with the provision of a slow-motion dodge-roll.
The strategy side of the game is even less well formed. Pausing and issuing commands might appear like a good idea - particularly with each character having access to a couple of unique special weapons - right up until the first time the action resumes and you run into a hail of bullets. Often this is when the rest of the enemy squad reveals itself from the game's stifling fog-of-war effect and wrecks your best-laid plans. Stealth is the safest, easiest, and arguably most satisfying way to progress in the game's early stages, but it's pretty basic and eventually loses its efficacy when the enemy numbers ramp up. Your own AI members tend to give the game away too, requiring you to issue a command for them to hold back.
Fear Effect: Sedna also stirs in a healthy smattering of puzzles from time to time. There's nothing massively clever about any of them, but they're nicely varied. You might find yourself observing the environment for clues to a pass code, shifting around haulage containers to form a pathway, partaking in a hacking mini-game, or shifting bookcases to block security cameras.
There's also a heavy focus on narrative and the interaction of your teammates, though this too is a bit of a mixed bag. On the positive side, the game's cel-shaded visual style gives everything a fresh 3D comic book style that really stands it apart from anything else on Switch.
On the less positive side, the dialogue is clunky and the voice acting stilted. Both issues could well be down to a less than perfect English translation (developer Sushee is French), with some expressions coming across as a little stiff or forced. Either way, it tends to spoil the flow of what promises to be an entertaining sci-fi romp.
In all honesty, the game needed more time in development. In addition to its half-baked strategy component - which almost feels like a vestigial limb from an earlier take on the game - there are general issues with signposting. It can be tricky figuring out where you're meant to be going or what you're supposed to be doing, while the game's combat systems aren't adequately explained.
It all combines to produce a curious hybrid of a game. Fear Effect: Sedna's varied components ensure that it's surprisingly difficult to grow bored of, even though each constituent part is rather lacking in isolation. There's enough positive here for us to look forward to the developer's forthcoming remake, Fear Effect Reinvented, at least. Here's hoping that game has a slightly more cohesive set of ingredients and spends a little longer in the oven.
Fear Effect: Sedna is a flawed amalgam of disparate parts. It fails to wholly convince as an action, strategy or stealth game, and the delivery of its story is a little stilted. However, the sheer variety of its mix and its fresh visual style may prove enough to keep you playing through.