There is nothing but darkness surrounding you. You raise your scanner and paint droplets of iridescent light that cling to the walls, guiding your way towards the surface and, you hope, home. This is Scanner Sombre and it’s this week’s Indie Pick.
Scanner Sombre is an exploration game by Introversion Software, the team behind the BAFTA award-winning Prison Architect. Set in an deep, intricate series of caves and tunnels, players only have an odd, light spewing device to find the path and discover the secrets within. It’s moody and beautiful. It’s this week’s Indie Pick!
If there is one thing that Scanner Sombre achieve over anything else, it is providing an interesting space to explore. There’s something surprising intimate to painting your own path through the labyrinthine caves. You’ll discover ancient ruins, industrial mine-shafts, and watch at the light of your scanner dances off underground lakes. It calls to mind the shattered cyberspace of Memories of a Broken Dimension with a slightly more mystical flair.
The game is marketed as being inspired by Gone Home and Dear Esther. The latter’s influence is more apparent. Scanner Sombre lacks Gone Home’s emotion centre but definitely seizes upon Dear Esther’s capacity for allowing the player to fill in narrative gaps. While there is some meager narration for context, the broader implications of the game space at left to the player’s imagination.
This is honestly for the better. While Scanner Sombre is mostly content to leave players to their exploration, the moments where it does impose a narrative feel incredibly force. This is no more pronounced than a final twist ending that was outright laughable in its attempts to elicit emotion. In these moments, Scanner Sombre wants to be a Game That Says Something™ and fails to deliver.
Scanner Sombre succeeds on the strength of its world. While the experience is brief, lasting no more than two hours, it offers a enjoyable mix of exploration and platforming that mixes nicely with the central conceit of painting your path with light. It’s an enjoyable mixture of the contemplative and playful.
You can play Scanner Sombre on PC and Mac OSX.