Science-Fiction has yet to exhaust the cyberpunk space. The ongoing Kickstarter project Sense seeks to shine another neon light on the disparity between futuristic innovation and societal structures. Having been to Hong Kong, I can assuredly say that that city, and as it exists within Cantonese culture, makes for a fantastic setting to pursue such an aesthetic and style.
The Future Is Bright(ly Lit)
The creator, Benjamin Widdowson describes Sense (whose subtitle, 不祥的预感 translates to “Ominous Foreboding”) as a 2.5D Ghost Story. Adventure games are not my thing. However, when I saw that Clock Tower and Fatal Frame were among the influences, I raised an eyebrow and read with renewed interest. Those incongruous horror titles are intriguing in their respective mixes of gameplay and narrative, and I would enjoy seeing their structures extrapolated into different settings.
Not unlike Jennifer Wilde, the protagonist, Mei-Lin Mak, is at the center of a complicated mystery—only replace 1920s Paris with Neo-Hong Kong’s “Chung Sing” building. To solve the caper, she must interact with the world, solve puzzles, and communicate with the supernatural. Ghosts and spirits who can hurt and even kill the player litter the Chung Sing building. If adventure games are your forte or you enjoy Bladerunner-esque aesthetics, Sense may be worth keeping your eye on. The creator is a concept artist himself, and is working with musicians and animators to bring his vision to life. The backgrounds provided evoke a lively sense of a lived-in and sinisterly dissatisfying world. He also promises there will be a New Game + mode that reveals new details and secrets, thus adding replayability.
Fan-Service, but for Which Fans?
At the same time, the game “happily embraces eroticism and fan-service in its art,” particularly in its character designs. In fact, as the protagonist, the well-endowed Mei-Lin, walks, her breasts jiggle. Interestingly, the publisher, Top Hat Studios has published several 18+ games in recent years. Also, while I can defend reusing a familiar aesthetic, the writing and story descriptions provided so far are overly familiar. Certainly, if the gameplay is good, less-than-stellar writing can still function. However, my concern is that if there is little focus on writing, then the eroticism the developer flaunts will be disconnected from the other themes and ideas; eroticism for its own sake with nothing to say about it. From there, question emerge. Is protagonist written to be a character with a deep psychology, or just an attractive avatar? If it is the latter, the appeal and potential of the futuristic world is stilted in favor of busty concept art.
Either way, Sense‘s Kickstarter has a couple weeks left and promises a whole host of backer rewards.