Bennu Reflects on "Master Reboot"
Last month, I had the opportunity to play through a game that I stumbled upon by chance in the PlayStation Store on my PS3. Created by Welsh studio Wales Interactive and published in October 2013, Master Reboot went on to achieve middling success in the gaming market. Although it wasn’t the first title Wales Interactive had worked on, it certainly showed elements of an up-and-coming indie development team who were working on a fairly limited budget.
That being said, I played through the game to completion and I decided to share my thoughts on the levels. This reflection will be significantly different to my earlier articles as there’s not much in the way of story here in the game, and what is available is generally either hidden with collectables or until the penultimate level.
Instead, I’ll be focusing on each playable level in the game and giving a somewhat succinct review of them. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the Soul Cloud . . .
Master Reboot begins with our player character falling onto a beach inside the Soul Cloud—a digital world in which the memories of deceased customers are uploaded into their own private network for family members to visit from the safety and comfort of their own home. Our player character, who is eventually revealed to be a woman by the name of Madison Jones, arrives in the Soul Cloud in order to pay a visit to her loved ones. However, things begin to get out of hand as the network’s defense system, known as Seren, begins to malfunction as a result of an outside entity attempting to hack into the Soul Cloud and spread a virus to bring it crashing down.
This ultimately leads to Madison’s arrival into the central hub of her Soul Cloud network as she journeys through twelve levels in order to purge the virus from infecting the memories of her loved ones.
The Childhood Memory sees Madison arrive in a large playroom as she searches for signs of Seren and the virus. There’s a jump-scare in this level as Seren comes bursting out of one of the closed cabinets. As a person who hates horror and especially jump-scares, this did initially make me jump a little but it thankfully wasn’t as bad as other games. Several Seren dolls also guard a dark maze in which Madison needs to navigate successfully in order to obtain one of three keys to finish the stage.
As a whole, the Childhood Memory is a great introductory level. It manages to showcase several different puzzles and jumping mechanics along with highlighting the occasional haunting presence that is Seren. These three elements are reinforced throughout the majority of the following levels; albeit in varying methods and ways.
The Street Memory is arguably the shortest level in the game but compensates for this by putting Madison behind the wheel of a car as she tries to avoid oncoming traffic. It can be a little hectic at times but, for the most part, the level essentially acts as one big puzzle with the player using their ability to time when to move the car to avoid danger. It’s possible to finish without hitting a single car; in fact, there’s a trophy reward for doing so.
Despite its unique layout compared to the rest of the levels, the Street Memory does serve as a memorable highlight of Master Reboot. It’s a short but sweet stage that gives a sense of urgency and danger to the player while also filling in some mild story elements with an older gentleman talking on the radio about the Soul Cloud.
The School Memory sees Madison return to her school as she once again finds herself trying to avoid Seren while solving some artsy puzzles. This level also holds arguably the most notorious puzzle in the game in the form of the planetarium puzzle. In a nutshell, players have to assemble the correct sequence of planets in our solar system using several projectors in a space-themed room.
While easy in theory, this can prove to be a little frustrating given how similar some of the planets look to each other. Although I know the order of planets in our solar system, I found myself getting annoyed at not realising that some of the smaller planets weren’t in fact what I thought they were in the holographic representation. Although I did solve it eventually, I admit that I spent a bit longer in there than I anticipated. Whether that was out of stubbornness or bad puzzle design I’m not sure.
The Park Memory sees Madison head to a park on a snowy night as she looks for different objects she can use to solve several puzzles around the area. This level reminds me somewhat of the Childhood Memory as you’re essentially in one location with all the tools you need scattered about this location. It’s just a matter of matching up the right object with the right spot.
Seren is present in the level but she cannot actually harm Madison. Instead, she sits on a park bench just beyond the borders of the level watching menacingly from afar. So, it’s a nice change of pace at least. I also want to point out that the bonus area from this level is quite fun to play. It involves some super jump mechanics and a race against time as Madison needs to reach the top of the area before the rain floods the location. It’s just something I thoroughly enjoyed and thought was worth mentioning.
Ah, the Aeroplane Memory. This is perhaps the scariest level in the game for me as you need to hide in the shadows as an air hostess version of Seren patrols the central hall of the plane. This level is slightly frustrating as you need to hide next to seats that don’t have an overhead light switch on; but it’s not always immediately apparent if the light is on or not. Instead, before you hide, you need to make sure the switch directly underneath you has a flickering orange button. That guarantees you a safe spot to hide.
From there, the player has to guide Madison through some vents in a similar fashion to Mirror’s Edge. However, unlike that game, Seren can stalk you inside the vents further adding a sense of tension and urgency to the segment. It’s certainly a well-designed level and implements significantly more thriller elements than its predecessors. It’s definitely a hallmark level for the game.
The Fairground Memory sees Madison arrive at a creepy fairground late at night. Once again, players need to solve several puzzles scattered around one large location in order to proceed onward. Most of the puzzles are here are straightforward such as the bumper car puzzle or the target shooting puzzle. However, there’s one particular puzzle here that really annoys me. The horse race puzzle.
The horse race puzzle consists of players pulling a lever for a slot machine with the player’s horse moving forward depending on how many horse slots they manage to pull. This puzzle is frustrating as it isn’t based on a player’s skill or aptitude but instead relies purely on luck. You could get it on your first try or you could end up spending an hour or two on it. It’s a frankly silly gimmick of a puzzle that is unfortunately required to finish the level.
The Beach Memory sees Madison return to the beach location from the start of the game; albeit in a much more detailed and expansive way. This level doesn’t really guide players much. Instead, it offers players one location and sends them on their way to try and figure things out on their own. While I appreciate the element of freedom, it can be a little jarring not knowing what to do. Thankfully, the game does give players enough of a hint with the map and the rings that you have to collect. It’s just the initial getting to that point which is annoying as most people probably won’t assume to put one’s map over an open fire.
That being said, however, it is a nicely designed stage and I did enjoy this level for the most part. While the treasure hunting could use some work, it thankfully didn’t dampen the experience much for me.
The Hospital Memory is similar to the Aeroplane Memory in that it re-introduces the elements of terror that the latter had. The hospital is dark and dangerous with only a flashlight to help players locate four switches that need to be turned on in order to escape. Couple that with loud crashing noises and occasional sightings of Seren darting past and you have a recipe for thrills.
There’s a trophy associated with this level as well in that you finish it without using the torch at all. Given how hard it is to see in general let alone in the dark, I can only caution players to learn the layout of the hospital before attempting this trophy.
The Circus Memory returns to form with a large forest-like area with a circus tent and merry-go-round added near the central area. This is a rather short level as players only need to help Madison collect several ball lights before she can finish the stage.
What is memorable about this stage, however, is that if you’ve been collecting the blue ducks you’ll stumble across a significant nugget of information about the identity of the outside threat attacking the Soul Cloud. This is further reinforced in the accompanying end-of-level demo which showcases a significant event taking place.
While this information is critical to the overall story, it’s not immediately apparent until a few levels later. That being said, this is perhaps the first major event in the game that begins to help players piece together what’s really going on.
The Graveyard Memory is an interesting hybrid of sorts as it manages to implement several different gameplay styles into one. What initially begins as a search for items to use in a puzzle soon transforms into a race for survival as Madison and the player are pursued by several zombie Serens.
Although this level lends itself well to the element of fear, it’s by no means as scary as the Aeroplane or Hospital Memories. It even re-introduces the axe weapon from the beginning tutorial as a way to escape danger by knocking down doors to proceed onwards. It’s a nice, well-constructed stage that attempts to familiarize players with all the mechanics of the game before heading to the end of the game.
The Library Memory serves as the penultimate level of Master Reboot and acts as probably the longest stage in the entire game. Although the design of the stage is scattered across several rooms, the main room, in particular, is partitioned off by bookcases that need to be adjusted. Although somewhat straightforward in hindsight, players have to remember their routes through the bookcase maze as some turns lead to dead ends which can sometimes kill Madison.
Despite this, the Library stage is fairly entertaining and manages to induce a mild sense of terror as Seren is seen walking around the bookcase maze whenever a new area is opened. Although, I never encountered her personally in the maze, which was nice.
This is also the level in which the antagonist reveals themselves to Madison and the player. If you’ve collected all the blue ducks up to this point, players should have an inkling of who the antagonist in question is. That being said, there’s enough information here to get the general gist of things as the player can choose whether to continue or to go back.
The Final Memory sees Madison and the player solve several more puzzles around a temple area before boarding a train to the central station. Here, the player has to solve a few more relatively easy puzzles before boarding one more train to Seren’s location in a large chapel of sorts.
Here, the player has to solve two more puzzles which can be somewhat frustrating with all the other audio elements playing in the background. Basically, players have to shoot a sequence of five bells on either side of the room in their correct order. There’s a hint in the form of audio cues that players can use to solve the order but this puzzle can be challenging for those who are either tone-deaf or not familiar with different audio cues.
Upon completing both puzzles, the player is then sent into the floor underneath the hijacked Seren and needs to destroy several boxes with the axe while avoiding the electricity coursing through the floor. Once this is done, players then need to destroy the central cylindrical structure directly underneath Seren to deactivate her and initialize the reboot command protocol.
To Stay or Leave
After watching the video, players then have a choice to make. Madison can choose to exit the Soul Cloud and save her own life at the cost of losing the Soul Cloud and the player’s save file. However, if one chooses to continue onwards, Madison enters the central nexus of the Soul Cloud and confronts Kali Patterson—the hacker and antagonist of the game.
In this final segment, the player has 200 seconds to finish a sequence of five puzzles to deactivate the barrier blocking Seren from attacking Kali. This can be a bit challenging if one is going for the associated trophy that requires players to finish with more than thirty seconds remaining. However, if time runs out, the game just reloads the last checkpoint so there’s no real threat if one doesn’t make it in time. Just try it again and you’ll get it eventually.
Upon reflection, the Final Memory serves as a solid end-stage. It incorporates almost every gameplay aspect and element and condenses it into a mostly fun and slightly difficult challenge. It’s definitely one of the better levels in the game to be sure.
Overall, Master Reboot is a solid game with some fun puzzle elements and mild-to-moderate horror/thriller elements. Although the game has a mostly bare-bones story, one can feel the indie vibe that the game gives off through its visual aesthetic and gameplay.
I did have a couple of mild visual and audio issues during my time with the game that slightly disappointed me. However, on the whole, Master Reboot serves as a solid entry in the Wales Interactive library. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of their work; in particular some of their FMV games that I’ve heard about.
Rating: 6.75 / 10
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