A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents should know that SOMA is a psychologically frightening downloadable first-person-adventure game. Playing as a man who wakes up in a mysterious underwater base, players have to figure out how he got there and how he can escape, all while avoiding death at the hands of some freaky creatures. Along with numerous dead bodies, many of which are bloodied, there's a lot of disturbing imagery and scary moments to put players on edge. There also are moments when the player has to make a tough choice, such as whether or nor they should kill someone who wants to die. Characters express anguish with such obscenities as "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and other variations of this language. One male monster's penis is clearly visible.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
In SOMA, you play as Simon Jarrett, a man who goes in for a brain scan after a car accident but wakes up in a mysterious underwater installation. With no idea where he is, how he got there, or what the black gunk on the walls might be, Simon has to explore the station to figure out how to get home. But though this game does have things that go bump in the night, as well as such situational hazards as exposed power lines, most of the scares come from the game's disturbing but effective atmosphere and imagery, which puts you on edge with the fear that the thing going bump in the night is right around the corner.
Is it any good?
Thanks to its atmospheric visuals, evocative sound effects, and story-driven problems, this freaky adventure game is as scary as it is challenging. Though it sort of plays like a point-and-click adventure game but with real-time movement, SOMA owes just as much to such survival horror games as BioShock and the Dead Space series in how effectively it uses freaky imagery and moody sound effects to really put players on edge. Still, most of the action has you trying to solve situational puzzles while avoiding the bizarre creatures you come across. But the game also is frustrating for not explaining itself very well. You don't have a map or a compass or anything to indicate what you're supposed to do or where to go. Which is, admittedly, part of the fun: the exploring, and what would happen in this situation. But having no clue often makes this more frustrating then fun, especially when you get into the more open areas, where it's easy to get lost. It also has a lot of useless interactions, such as how you have to move the thumbstick to open the door you just clicked on instead of it just opening automatically like in most games. Still, for all its irritations, SOMA does a great job of pulling you into its nightmarish realm and giving you a good scare.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about making tough decisions. In the game, you sometimes have to chose whether someone lives or dies, especially if they want to die. Do you think you could make that decision? Which is the right one?
Talk about sacrificing for the greater good. Why do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one?
Discuss living underwater. What do you think it would be like to live in a small, enclosed space underwater? What can we learn about the fish and other plants and animals that live down there?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
- Price: $29.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Frictional Games
- Release date: September 22, 2015
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Ocean Creatures, Robots, Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: M for Violence, Blood, Nudity, Strong Language
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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