Event[0]: an unsettling chat with an AI

Event[0] is a game that I picked up in the last Steam Winter Sale and to the amazement of even myself, it did not languish in my Steam library; I actually played it shortly afterwards. What intrigued me enough to buy and play it so quickly was the idea of communicating with an AI through actual typed messages instead of just pre-canned dialog options.

The first part of the game does actually consist of you making a few dialog choices, like where you came from, your personality, and your gender. I’m going to praise the game right here for having a third gender-neutral pronoun to choose from. A small design decision that has no effect on the game as far as I can tell but the gesture is much appreciated.

I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible so let’s just say that circumstances lead you to be alone on a space station that’s been abandoned for decades. Alone except for an AI straight out of the ’80s called Kaizen.

The chat seems to mostly rely on Kaizen detecting keywords in what you type so while I could have simplified my text, I wanted to talk to him as if he was a real person. I also wanted to be polite too because not only am I Canadian but I also didn’t want Kaizen to suddenly jettison my character back into space. Of course, that didn’t stop him from getting downright creepy really fast.

Creepy is about how I would describe the whole game. Steam has it tagged as Horror but nothing scared me throughout it. Unsettling though, it does that well. Whether it’s the dark and dilapidated station itself…

…Kaizen’s text going all “demonically-possessed computer” on me…

…a weird 50s sci-fi movie autoplaying in the living quarters…

…dozens of origami birds and flowers scattered throughout the garden section…

…disturbed writing on walls (plus bonus origami)…

…or whatever the hell is going on in this room.

There were some moments when the atmosphere chilled out a little and I was treated to some rather impressive visuals for an indie game.

Most of the gameplay involved either either trying to figure out what to say to Kaizen to get the information I needed, or simply puzzles such as searching a room for an item or matching up picture pieces to create a larger picture. There’s a couple of times when I needed to type in some very rudimentary command line phrases but the game pretty much tells you exactly what to type. Let’s just say that I don’t play many puzzle games nor am I very good at them, but I never got stuck on a puzzle or had to look up any information. I didn’t consider the puzzles to be all that entertaining but like I said, I’m not really a puzzle person. There were some spacewalking portions though, which was pretty cool.

Talking with Kaizen turned out differently than I expected. I had been hoping for a more intelligent AI in the game but like I said, Kaizen seems to be based on keyword-scanning and so there were several times when he misunderstood what I was saying because I had used the wrong keywords. In addition, there are some moments where Kaizen is basically monologuing but I didn’t realize it because there are still pauses when I was suppose to type in a response. It’s only after I typed something to him and he continued his line of thought instead of answering me that I figured out what was happening. I don’t know why the developer put those pauses in there really.

The story was the most interesting part for me. It’s revealed piece by piece throughout the game and…well let’s just say that it makes you question what information is facts and what is “alternative facts”. I think they could have fleshed out the story a little more but I’m mostly satisfied with what I was given. The ending was a bit of a letdown though because it’s like Mass Effect 3 where there’s multiple endings but there’s only one choice that you make right before the end that decides which ending you get. None of the other choices seem to matter.

For a game that I completed in 3 hours, the regular price of $22 CAD seems a bit steep since it’s doesn’t have much replayability. I can’t recommend it for that amount but I would recommend it for the sale price I got it at (~$13 CAD). It’s a space-themed indie game featuring an AI with a morbid sense of humor…$13 is worth it just to talk with Kaizen.

March 17, 2017 No comments

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