Somerville is a dramatic, emotional tale that oozes atmosphere


Unless you've been living on the moon for the last few years or just don't like the very best indie games you'll have heard of Limbo, Inside, and their developer Playdead. Jumpship is an independent game studio founded around an original IP by Chris Olsen and built in collaboration with ex-CEO and co-founder of Playdead Dino Patti, who worked on both Limbo and Inside as executive producer. So it's no coincidence that despite straying into 2½D occasionally, Somerville immediately put me in mind of Playdead's two classics.

After a superb cinematic intro sequence you start the game controlling the family's toddler son, who was awoken by the TV hissing white noise as you'd all presumably fallen asleep on the couch watching a movie. You explore a bit, then play briefly as mom and then dad who is the main protagonist of the game. 

One man and his dog take in a panoramic view of... The end of the world?

There are strange lights outside and then a huge explosion rocks the house. It soon becomes apparent that an alien invasion is happening, and the once-idyllic family home is not a safe place to be.

Attempting to help this wounded soldier changes the protagonist's life.

Separated from wife and child you set out to find them with only the family dog for company. After trying to save a soldier your hand is imbued with the power to manipulate the rippling, fluid blue alien energy. Later on another soldier in blue armour saves you from a panther-like robotic alien predator and gives you the power to solidify the blue energy. This forms the clever mechanic for many of the game's puzzles.

Wading through the alien liquid substance...

Most of the gameplay sees you moving left or right and sometimes into or out of the screen (that's where the 2½D bit comes in). Many areas feel like little more than filler as you plod through them and other times you're chased by deadly energy beams being cast from the weird spike-like alien ships.

Forming your own tunnel...

I'm not sure I like the character model of the adults in the game.  I don't hate skinny people but I think I'd have preferred a realistically proportioned character to play most of the game with. As a dog lover I was also a bit disappointed that you don't get to play as or even pet the family dog, who is your faithful companion virtually throughout. 

A dropship tries to save the family...

Reasonably priced at £22.49 Somerville certainly offers something different; a dramatic, emotional tale oozing atmosphere created without a single word of dialogue. This is aided by some superb sound effects and classy music. Multiple endings (5, I think), some hidden collectibles and a really good chapter/checkpoint select means there's a good deal of convenient replayability. The game's difficulty is dead right but it's a bit short–I'd reckon on between 3 and 5 hours depending whether you sail through it, or explore every nook and cranny, or struggle with any of the puzzles–which is unlikely. Somerville doesn't quite live up to its esteemed forebears but it's a good solid title that may well spawn a sorta-sequel of its own.