Developer: Ocelot Society
Publisher: Ocelot Society
Format:
PC (Reviewed), Mac
Released: September 14, 2016
Copy purchased

There’s a scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where astronaut David Bowman asks the shipboard computer, HAL, to open the pod bay doors on the spaceship Discovery. “I’m sorry, Dave,” HAL responds, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.” It’s a memorable scene, and one that was stuck in the back of my mind as I played Event[0], the debut title from the French game development studio, Ocelot Society. Event[0] isn’t shy about comparing itself to 2001, with several overt references throughout.

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The game starts by asking you some multiple choice questions about your character’s background – what pronoun do you use, where were you born, what was your goal in life – that sort of thing. It then establishes that you are an astronaut on your very first space mission: a voyage to Jupiter’s frozen moon, Europa. Things go predictably pear shaped and you find yourself alone and adrift in an escape pod after your spaceship is destroyed. That’s when you start to hear music and discover an abandoned, thirty year old space yacht called the Nautilus. After your escape pod docks with the Nautilus, you’re introduced to Kaizen-85, ship’s computer and the core concept behind the game. Kaizen is a chatterbot, a computer program that can parse text typed in on the keyboard and attempt to respond in a natural fashion.

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There’s a reason the Nautilus has been adrift for thirty years, and over the course of the game you will slowly piece this together. There are rooms to explore, logs to read and puzzles to solve. The puzzles are all handled by typing on your keyboard. Quite a few of these are dependent on pressing keys in the right order, but I didn’t find them especially difficult. Event[0] is very generous with its hints, making it feel like less of a game and more of an interactive experience. The visuals are nice enough but hardly ground breaking; you’re not dealing with a Triple A publisher, so the graphics have more in common with an FPS from 10 years ago. There’s a lovely piece of music in the game – Hey Judy by Julie Robert – that perfectly fits the game’s haunting and lonely atmosphere. It’s the sole piece of music in the game too, as most of the time you’re left only with ambient noises, Kaizen’s robotic intonations and – during spacewalks – your own laboured breathing. I feel it makes the few moments when the song is played even more poignant. There were a few moments where I became frustrated with Kaizen’s text parsing abilities – for instance, he can recognise “move the elevator up” but not “elevator up” – but for the most part he comes across as a believable and interesting character. It’s here that I’m most reminded of HAL from 2001; Kaizen outwardly expresses his desire to help the player, but there are hints that he may have his own hidden motives for doing so and that his childlike naiveté is merely a front. It makes him a complex individual, one who can play villain just as easily as he can play friend and sidekick.

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Event[0] is a short game that you can finish in around 2-3 hours. There are 3 endings to unlock, dependent on how you resolve the game’s core dilemma, plus a dozen or so achievements that I think will see me playing through it again. The game costs US$19.99, which I think is a bit much. It’s a wonderful game, one that I enjoyed immensely, but I think it would be much better served around half the asking price. As a concept, Event[0] is well crafted and brilliantly executed. Personally I felt satisfied with the overall experience, having a length that didn’t overstay its welcome, but I can understand that its short length may leave some players wanting more. If you enjoy science fiction, Event[0] may be the experience for you, just keep in mind that the value for money proposition may be a little sketchy given the game’s short length.

Final Score: 3/5
Final Recommendation: Wait for a Sale

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Writer: Tristan Hankins
Editor: Tristan Venables

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