Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Observation Game Poster Image
Tough sci-fi puzzler has intense story, strong language.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The main plot explores the nature of artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial mysteries, with additional threads touching on timely world topics including climate change and international scientific cooperation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Emma Fisher, a British scientist, is a skilled problem solver with good intentions and a strong will to survive. The ship's artificial intelligence (the player's character) is largely bound to do what's instructed.

Ease of Play

Figuring out what to do and how to do it -- such as tracking down a system problem and then working out how to fix it -- can be quite challenging. Even moving around the small spaces can be surprisingly hard due to the lack of orientation in zero gravity.


Action is focused on puzzles and exploration rather than combat, but players occasionally see dead bodies floating in the space station.


Dialogue contains infrequent instances of strong language, including the words "f--k" and "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Observation is a downloadable puzzle and exploration game for the PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs. The game is set aboard a space station that has undergone an unknown nearly catastrophic event. Players take on the role of the station's malfunctioning artificial intelligence as it attempts to help a surviving astronaut repair the station and search for other crew members. There isn't any combat, though players will encounter dead bodies. Dialogue contains strong language, including the F-word. Both the puzzles -- which typically involve fixing station systems -- and moving around in zero gravity can be quite challenging, due mostly to the game's high level of authenticity.

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What's it about?

OBSERVATION is set aboard a fictional low orbit space station similar in design to the International Space Station. When the game begins, the station has suffered a disastrous event, leaving many of its systems -- including you, in the role of an artificial intelligence known as SAM -- malfunctioning. Dr. Emma Fisher, one of the crew members, helps restore SAM to working order so that it can help her fix the station and find her fellow crew members. As SAM, you can switch between station cameras to find, identify, and interact with physical objects and systems, inhabit a robotic sphere to move around inside and outside the station, and dive into the virtual world of the computer to examine data, solve puzzles, and piece together corrupted memories. The puzzles are contextual and rooted in the station's systems, meaning you'll need to do things like figure out how to open hatches, restore power, and fix latching mechanisms. Dr. Fisher often commands SAM to attend to specific tasks, but the player is usually left to work out how to achieve objectives and solve puzzles without much help or instruction. As the adventure progresses, it becomes obvious that the problems the station has suffered run much deeper than technical malfunctions, and that SAM might be playing an unwitting role in them.

Is it any good?

This game's aimed squarely and unapologetically at space geeks, resulting in an unforgettable experience. Observation works hard to get scientific details right, from what it's like to exist and move around in a zero gravity environment to the practical systems required to operate a working space station. You may come away feeling as though you're returning from orbit rather than having just playing a game. This level of authenticity is impressive and praiseworthy, and will undoubtedly be appreciated by players passionate about space engineering. There are few, if any, games quite like it. But it may prove off-putting to others who don't want to wade through technical language (even if it is mostly just for show -- you definitely don't need to be a programmer or engineer to play) and are easily disoriented exploring an environment in which there's no up or down.

If you do fit into Observation's target audience, though, you'll be in for a rollicking ride. It delivers a tense, terrifying sci-fi story that takes us beyond Earth and into deeper galactic mysteries. The puzzles are satisfyingly tough, forcing players to be keenly observant, make connections between clues, and to read instructions carefully and thoroughly. Having us take on the role of the station's computer -- to become HAL 9000, in essence – rather than a crew member makes for a neat twist, forcing us to learn how to navigate the station through cameras and figure out how an artificial intelligence thinks. That SAM is somehow connected to the strange events within and without the station just makes it all the more intriguing. Observation is a terrific sci-fi mystery unlikely to disappoint fans of challenging puzzles and hard sci-fi storytelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Sometimes the best way to play a puzzle game like Observation is to take breaks so that you can return to look at a tricky brainteaser with a fresh perspective, but do you think taking frequent breaks might work with other types of games, too?

  • Do you think computers will ever be able to think like humans, or are they such different types of intelligence that they can't really be compared? Can different types of intelligence still be equal?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Themes & Topics

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