Somerville Review (PS5) – When one of the minds behind seminal indie games Limbo and Inside creates a new studio you should stand up and take notice. Somerville, the maiden title from Guilford-based studio Jumpship finally makes its way to PlayStation platforms having released previously on PC and Xbox in November 2022.
Originally a personal side project by animator and previz artist Chris Olsen, co-founder of PlayDead Dino Patti saw its potential, which led to Patti collaborating with Olsen to form a new independent game studio, with Sommerville to be their debut project.
If this first game from the team at Jumpship can capture some of what made the aforementioned PlayDead games special, whilst also being its own unique experience then it could be a very special game indeed.
Somerville Review (PS5) – A Feast For The Senses
A Man, His Dog, And Aliens
Players take on the role of a father/husband who has been separated from his wife and child. Having been left in the basement of your house after some kind of alien attack you awake to find your family has fled to seek refuge (having presumed you dead).
You head out on a journey to track them down with your loyal dog who has stayed by your side while your body lay lifeless on the concrete floor.
At its core the game has puzzle gameplay as you come across obstacles to your progress towards reuniting with your loved ones. Some times you are clearing paths while others you are using stealth to avoid detection. It all functions really well to build the feeling of the struggles the protagonist is dealing with.
As the story began to unfold, I couldn’t help but get vibes of War Of The Worlds, Signs and Super 8. The sense of intrigue had me wanting more and the use of a camera trick early on where something is happening in the sky but as the player you cannot look up really set the stage.
Also the fact that its you and your dog together trying to unravel the mystery made me nostalgic for the episodes of Tin Tin I would watch after school when I was a kid.
Being a Dad of young kids myself, I really experienced some moments quite strongly, it even brought me to (joyful) tears at one point.
Storytelling Without Words
What really sets this game apart from a lot of games is the fact that the story is delivered without any words. It leans heavily on its visuals and sound design to so brilliantly take the player along on the epic journey.
It was no surprise to find that Somerville was nominated for Outstanding Achievement In Audio Design at the 26th Annual DICE Awards. Quite frankly it is some of the very finest audio design I’ve ever experienced in a game.
Lighting and particle effects are also implemented excellently and deliver a atmospheric environments that aptly compliment the the rest of the design.
This is a talented team who are skilled at crafting these atmospheric environments. Not only relying on the visuals and audio, this PS5 version has some further tricks to enhance the player experience.
The use of haptics, adaptive triggers and lightbar in the DualSense controller are probably the best implementation I’ve seen since Returnal, and its wonderful seeing the features used to really boost the storytelling.
The use of a 3D world here does come with some issues. In my first couple of minutes in the game the dog got stuck behind the opened back door, while in a subsequent playthrough got stuck in the bottom step of the stairs.
A couple of times the camera view got blocked and some noticeable graphical artifacting is evident along some edges. Performance also takes some little stutters with a spot of slowdown when new areas load in.
Speaking of loading the black load screens tend to take out out of the experience somewhat. These are minor issues but if they were improved the delivery of the story would be that little bit more immersive.
An Enthralling Experience
A full playthrough will take you around 4 hours. One section with a bus blocking the path caught me out with some head scratching but other than that everything else was fairly straight forward. The chapter select menu is very welcome as it can be used to go back and clean up some missing trophies.
Some will be irked by the game’s lack of a Platinum trophy and I have to say I’d be one in that category.
That being said, Somerville had its hooks in me from start to finish. If Jumpship wasn’t already on your radar, then they absolutely should be.
Somerville is out now for PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by PR.