If you ever had the dream of being able to take Blade Runner with you on the go, Observer on the Nintendo Switch is probably the closest you are going to get! Bloober Team’s futuristic, AI-infused horror experience has a unique story and a well-written main character, but its glitchy nature puts a big downer on the experience as a whole.
Taking place in 2084 Poland, Daniel Lazarski is an Observer, a half-man, half-machine detective who invades the dreams and memories of others to solve cases. In this post-apocalyptic world, human life has been ravaged by a digital plague, and a new, potential outbreak keeps Lazarski in an apartment complex. The situation, and your sanity, begin to spin out of control after the discovery of the first murder of many, and it is up to our noir detective to solve the sudden mystery at hand.
We’ll get to the less than savory bits of the Observer port in a moment, but let’s celebrate where the game truly shines: its horror elements. These days horror so often relies on cheap jump scares or gore to send a message, but this does it in a more subtle, more terrifying sort of way. The scariest thing about Observer is the real-world implications of the world Bloober Team has created. The tension and unease is created by this totally believable, totally possible near future, and, in all honesty, that’s something I’d rather not think about too closely.
The developers really use the atmosphere and our main character to highlight what makes the cyberpunk, horror genre so great. Rutger Hauer’s- yes THE Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner and Sin City- performance is rather compelling. His voice alone totally sets the scene for this noir detective piece, and he creates a familiar archetype while still bringing something unique to the table. His performance paired with the bright neon of the decrepit city really sell this post-apocalyptic cityscape.
That being said, the Nintendo Switch port of the title doesn’t come without its obvious flaws. When on the go, the graphics are crisp and clear, but they don’t always stay that way. When the Switch is docked, the graphics are a bit underwhelming, appearing grainy, blown-out, and dull compared to what Observer should look like. From my experience on other consoles, it is a great looking game, but that isn’t always the case on the Switch.
In this same vein, the drops in framerate, especially on the Switch itself, became quite distracting. I also continued to run into a problem of where Lazarski would get stuck in the floor. Everything else would continue to work perfectly, but I was unable to get the character moving around again, which would result in having to restart the game. It is a shame because some things about Observer make it perfect for the Switch, but the technical difficulties are hard to get past.
In all honesty, Observer is a bit of a slow burn, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re looking for something quick and action-packed this isn’t the game for you. That being said, there is plenty to explore within the apartment complex and its broad spectrum of inhabitants. Methodical puzzles and puzzling detective work make up for the game’s rather slow gameplay style. All in all, if you can push past some of the more technical flaws, there is a lot of interesting things happening in Bloober Team’s Observer with its mechanics and story. But, for a price point of $29.99, I would hope to see a more polished product in the future.