Released on Xbox consoles and PC last year, we quite enjoyed Somerville. The good new is that it launches on PS4 and PS5 this week, letting more people enjoy it. Developed by Jumpship, it’s a title that grabs your interest from the outset, putting you in the shoes of a man who’s just lost not only his wife but also his child in the onset of an alien attack. Can he save them? He doesn’t know, but he’s going to try. And so begins a journey through a world that’s recognisable but also now filled with danger.
What’s really striking about Somerville is that there’s no dialogue at all. Yet despite this, you really come to care for the mute hero and his family. He has a really cute dog, too, that tries to follow and help him as much as possible. For the most part it’s up to him to find solutions to the problems that stand in his way, some of which are supernatural in nature. But thanks to his newfound power, that’s not too much of a problem.
It seems our protagonist can now alter electrical devices, or more specifically, power up sources of light so that they dissipate alien matter. Along with the usual conundrums involving pulling switches, moving objects and suchlike, there’s nothing all that original about the puzzles you encounter in Somerville. You do gain an additional power later in the game, though, and truth be told it’s the atmosphere and premise of the game that will keep you powering through it.
On PS5, Somerville looks as striking as ever, and with two graphics mode options you can choose whether to prioritise frame rate or visual splendour. We see no reason to opt for the latter, though. It doesn’t really look that much better, while playing at 60fps makes everything much smoother and more enjoyable. Some thought has been given to the DualSense controller, too. Using your unnatural power with the left trigger makes it vibrate and crackle in your hand, while the light around the touchpad springs into life. It’s a nice touch.
What’s disappointing, though, is that the controls haven’t been tightened up since the game’s original launch. Controlling your father on a mission still feels unwieldy at times. And it’s a bit irritating never feeling like you’re in control of his pace. Ultimately, it makes Somerville a game that you sometimes feel like you’re enduring rather than enjoying, which is a shame. A short game taking just a handful of hours to complete, we’re also still a bit down on its final act, which just throws up more questions when we would have preferred some answers.
Still, if you love short adventure games that tease your grey matter and make you think, Somerville is very much worth giving a go on PS5. It’s a unique game, and a solid debut by Jumpship. It’s just disappointing that in the year or so since the game’s original release, its controls haven’t been improved at all to make it a bit of a smoother journey.
Somerville is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC, and launches 31st August on PS4 and PS5.