The game is littered with these point-and-click-inspired puzzles. In fact, they’re the bulk of the game. You spend the vast majority of your time trying to hunt down the necessary information to open doors and repair workstations. Some are straightforward while others are absurdly obtuse. You can ask Fisher to repeat the task, which occasionally reveals a mild hint about what to do next. For the most part, though, you’re working solo. An almost-sentient piece of software trying to figure out how the ship and its crew fit together.
It can be daunting when you boot up a computer and discover a fictional interface that you’ve never seen before. I spent minutes, sometimes hours, flicking random buttons and scouring the ship for clues on how the alien software might work. Figuring out these micro-puzzles can be vexing if you’re not in the right frame of mind or misinterpret Fisher’s instructions. My anger often turned to laughter, though, when I imagined how this behavior and general lack of intelligence would appear to other characters. A super-smart AI that spends hours trying to open an airlock? I’m surprised Fisher didn’t give up and throw me in the trash.
On the flipside, of course, there’s an indescribable sense of satisfaction when you finally solve a problem. I just wish the game had a proper hint system for people like me who sometimes, just sometimes, need a gentle steer in the right direction.
I won’t spoil the central mystery, which revolves around Fisher, Sam, and a secret mission being carried out aboard the ship. I will say, though, that I was left underwhelmed by most of the twists and the climactic resolution. The sub-par story doesn’t detract from the game’s excellent puzzles, though, and imaginative take on artificial intelligence. If you feel burned out on astronaut-themed games, I don’t blame you. We’ve had a ton in recent years, including Tacoma, Adr1ft and more fantastical fare such as No Man’s Sky, the rebooted Prey and Elite Dangerous. Observation has a genuinely fresh take, though, which is worth playing if you enjoy tough adventure games and clunky but utterly charming software design.
It’s fun to don a virtual spacesuit, but it turns out being a helpful software assistant can be just as exhilarating.
Observation is available now for $24.99/£19.99 on PlayStation 4 and the Epic Games Store.