With its continual growth the Wii U eShop library is bringing us a diverse range of games across various genres, yet Master Reboot from Wales Interactive nevertheless succeeds in delivering something unique to the platform. Previously released on PC and PSN, it's an ambitious effort that has moments of brilliance and a palpably tense atmosphere, albeit with some limitations that are hard to ignore.
Master Reboot's storyline is a neat slice of sci-fi horror, and it would be a disservice to anyone reading this to spoil too much. The overall setting is within the Soul Cloud, an ethereal yet digital place in which you experience distinct memories — it's been corrupted, however, and a mysterious and rather creepy young girl haunts you through twisted, distorted scenes of the protagonist's memory. The key ingredient to the game as a whole is its insistence that you figure out the intricacies of the plot, and how you interact with the world, without hand-holding and assistance.
It's a solid concept, with the first-person perspective doing much to tap into the current craze for scary games on various platforms. This has more storytelling depth than a lot of these games that target jump scares, but there's undoubted tension here that's cleverly brought on by restrictive lighting and ominous sound effects; we certainly jumped a few times and, in general, became absorbed in the more anxious set-pieces.
This is, after all, a game of isolated set-pieces. In the context of exploring memories this is a perfect fit, as you enter a variety of rooms that represent memories ranging from a nursery, to a school, a playground, and then more grown-up settings such as a flight, day at the beach and a library. Unlocked in blocks, it's certainly recommended to tackle them in the order they appear, and forming a coherent picture of events requires a fastidious approach to hunting out clues and suggestions; these often take the form of blue ducks, with notes and documents teasing you along. Initial confusion over what's happening — and the identity of your own character — gradually subsides, and the developer's done an impressive job of taking locations familiar to many and applying a twist of light horror.
Exploration of these areas is the key to the title, though there are puzzles and tasks in each. It's a diverse mix, though this is where the experience goes through varying degrees of quality; some areas have relatively clever puzzles, others are simply tasks to collect a variety of items, and there are occasional examples that struggle to maintain a strong standard. The ambitious push for diversity in a download game always has the potential to serve up some missteps, so it's perhaps not overly surprising that some scenarios are far weaker than the stand-outs.
The most enjoyable sections, in general, are those that don't require a great deal of precision. The controls are functional, with dual screen analogue for movement and the camera, along with interaction, crouch and jump buttons, though in general movement is a tad unwieldy. Part of the problem is the variable performance of the engine, as this title rarely runs as smoothly as we'd like; most of the time it's not an issue, though there's occasional frustration with aiming or jumping that can be disappointing.
It's a surprise that the framerate can struggle, meanwhile, as the visuals are relatively crude. That's not a negative, in particular, as a simplistic engine is enhanced by some impressive art design, with some environments and effects being among the most stylish we've seen in an eShop title. Considering the developer's ability to make the most of a basic engine, then, it's surprising that some image stills for the storyline look painfully basic; it may have been a style choice, but if so it's an unfortunate one. What matters is the core game, however, and it's successful in providing an atmospheric, interesting world.
Overall, Master Reboot delivers an interesting, relatively unique experience, taking us around five hours to see through to the end. The storyline evolves nicely and there are some undoubted high points, and there's an ongoing sense that this has been a passion project for the team — right down to the inclusion of Welsh as a language choice, reflecting the studio's homeland and perhaps acknowledging the public funding it's received. Despite its flaws, it has moments of strength that redeem the whole project.
Master Reboot is an intriguing first-person adventure that, with a willingness to explore, provides copious doses of atmosphere, tension, and sci-fi horror. Some moments are terrific, yet on the flipside some scenarios disappoint, while general sloppiness in the controls and technical performance are relatively forgiveable drawbacks. Full of creativity and enjoyable moments, this is worthy of booting up that Wii U.