A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
In spite of the world becoming a desolate and dangerous place, the player's quest is centered on never losing hope even when you have reason to believe otherwise. Depending on your actions, the game lifts up the honor in self-sacrifice to protect family, as well as how blissful ignorance in our own comfort can blind us to other people's suffering. Lastly, Somerville celebrates how the greatest heroes can come from where we least expect them.
Positive Role Models
A few characters give up their lives and pass on their powers to those who can carry on saving the world. The main character has a wife and pet dog who stick by his side with great loyalty and courage in the face of uncertainty and fear.
The main characters are white: a husband and wife with a child. You play as the husband. There are other humans in the game who that are mostly white, but there are some black characters amid a warehouse filled with survivors. One of the three side characters with superhuman powers is a woman.
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Ease of Play
You move around and interact with objects via two separate inputs. There are a couple other buttons that charge objects or change their composition with different types of energy to solve puzzles. The game's mechanically simple, but the first half hour is a bit frustrating since a couple objects aren't obvious to interact with.
Violence & Scariness
The main character passes out in a couple cutscenes. When he dies during gameplay, he just falls over; there's no blood or gore. Some human characters are incinerated by an alien laser beam, but these deaths are implied or not visible. Some alien animals hunt you, which you need to hide or run from.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There's an abandoned concert venue that you walk through. Beer bottles and a bar area are visible.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Somerville is a downloadable atmospheric adventure game with puzzles available on Xbox One, Xbox One S|X, and Windows PCs. You play as a man who wakes up with his wife and child to discover an alien invasion has started. After touching a person in futuristic armor who crashes into your house, you pass out and wake up later with the ability to alter light. Your family has gone missing, so you set out to discover what happened to them while navigating the world with your newfound power. There are some tense moments where players have to hide or run away from alien animals, but they're not scary in themselves. Your character falls over during some cutscenes and can die during gameplay, but there's no blood or gore. Some corpses are visible and other deaths take place off-screen. There's an area of the game where you walk through an empty concert venue with beer bottles scattered about.
Is It Any Good?
This sci-fi adventure doesn't have a single line of dialogue, but it does have gorgeous set pieces, animation, and art direction. Somerville starts as a simple mission to survive and find your character's family in the midst of an alien invasion. As it unfolds, the tale evolves into something complex and cryptic with reflections on sacrifice, duty, and the cost of warfare. The adventure spans a desolate city, a network of mining tunnels, and more as you solve environmental puzzles to carry onward. These brainteasers often involve using light to dissolve debris made out of an alien material that riddles landscapes and blocks your path. Solutions include moving a pair of jumper cables to a car engine to turn on its headlights, and pushing a cart with an adjustable floodlight to just the right spot. Somerville is great about avoiding repetition by never using any tools or machinery more than twice, making each puzzle feel distinct. When a new power is introduced halfway through the experience that allows you to alter that alien material in a different way, surprising new layers of depth are added to the puzzles.
Nevertheless, it would've been nice to have seen one or two more powers add more novelty and complexity in using the alien material to your advantage. Somerville could have also benefitted from some design conveniences like a sprint button and clearer level design, since navigation can be awkward in knowing exactly where you need to go. There are minor visual issues as well, but these don't adversely affect the overall gameplay or presentation. Somerville may be a short game that clocks in at about four hours of playtime, but it's a finely crafted experience dripping with atmosphere and attention to detail in all its visuals and audio. It will leave you with more questions than answers by the time the credits roll, but the game deserves further reflection, even a second playthrough, with how mysterious, yet compelling, it is.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.