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Event [0] - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Innovative use of text-recognition
  • Building a "relationship" with an A.I.
  • Open-ended interrogation and investigation of a mystery

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Kaizen A.I. is rarely relevant or necessary for progression
  • Very short for the $20 price tag

Overall Impression : C+
Innovative text-recognition feels kind of squandered

Event [0] - cover

Developer:
Ocelot Society

Platforms:
PC or Mac (via Steam <, Gool Ol' Games, or itch.io),
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $20 USD

Original release date:
14 September 2016

Genre:
science fiction mystery

Player(s):
single player

Play time:
2 hours

ESRB Rating: N/A
MegaBearsFan's Parental Recommendation:
appropriate for children.

Official site: N/A

Continuing on through my years-old backlog of indie Steam games, I moved away from Bloober Team games, but stuck with the sci-fi genre and played one of the most innovative games from 2016. I may be five years late to this one, but Event [0] is still a unique sci-fi mystery game that no other developers seem to have tried to emulate. As such, the game still holds up quite well.

The central premise here is that you find yourself in an abandoned space station in orbit around Jupiter. Your only companion is an onboard A.I. named Kaizen who talks to you through text on computer terminals scattered throughout the small station. The gimmick here is that all your interactions with Kaizen are handled by typing questions or commands into the computer terminals using your keyboard. The game uses some natural speech recognition algorithms to parse your text, interpret its meaning, and compose an appropriate response for Kaizen. It's like installing CleverBot into your game as an NPC.

The only other character is the possibly-malfunctioning onboard A.I., who you can type questions or commands to.

Even 5 years later, it's still a wholly unique way of interacting with an in-game NPC, and Kaizen comes off as being fairly believable. It certainly helps that the developers decided to make Kaizen an A.I. character instead of a human NPC, since it makes your interactions with Kaizen feel a bit more natural and believable. And when Kaizen gives a nonsensical response, it's easy to chalk it up to it being a malfunctioning A.I..

You are expected to explore the space station, investigating the environment for clues, and asking Kaizen questions to help you unravel the mystery of what happened to the crew of the station. The station only has a handful of rooms, and only had [I think] 3 crew members on it, so it doesn't take long to figure out what happened. In fact, the whole game is playable within about 2 or 3 hours, and repeat play throughs (to get alternate endings or whatever) can be completed in an hour or less.

You must figure out what happened to the crew.

This is kind of the core problem with the game that holds it back from being a masterpiece or classic. For the $20 price tag, I was expecting a bit more. When I realized that the game was ending, I honestly thought to myself "wait, that's it?!"

A big part of the disappointment was that the central gimmick of interacting with a relatively smart A.I. actually feels under-utilized. Even though the whole game is basically an experimental tech demo to showcase Kaizen, you don't really need Kaizen to solve the puzzles or finish the game. Most of the clues and solutions to puzzles can be found by simply accessing the text logs of the computer terminals in each room. The puzzles themselves aren't particularly hard once you've found all the clues. How you interact with Kaizen throughout the game is the principle factor in which ending you get, but other than that, there's one set piece that requires you to talk to Kaizen to progress.

The controls also take a bit of getting used to. Since you're expected to be using your keyboard to be typing questions for Kaizen, movement is controlled entirely by the mouse. You hold left-click to walk forward, and right-click to walk backwards. It kind of gives the game a feeling more akin to classic point-and-clicks.

I'm not really sure if this was necessary however. You have to be at a computer terminal in order to type questions to Kaizen. You can't just type in a question from anywhere in the room and expect Kaizen to hear it and respond. So the game could have allowed you to use the W,A,S,D keys to walk, and just press a button to activate a computer terminal, at which point you'd use the keyboard to talk to Kaizen. But whatever, the controls work fine. You're never expected to circle-strafe hostile aliens or platform or anything like that.

The keyboard is used to type question to Kaizen, and so movement is handled entirely by the mouse.

Short length, aside, if you do take the time to converse with Kaizen instead of just jumping straight to the logs, you can get a player-driven, open-ended mystery experience akin to what you might find in Her Story -- but with an actual answer and a definitive ending. The underlying technology of Event [0] is certainly impressive, but it's lacking as both a game and a mystery. If You're looking for a player-driven mystery game with a little more meat, then Her Story or Return of the Obra-Din are both much more satisfying games to solve and much more satisfying mysteries. If, however, Event [0] shows up on sale through Steam or Gool Ol' Games, I'd say it's well worth the couple hours it takes to finish. This could, after all, be looked back upon as a first small milestone and proof of concept towards intelligent NPCs in our video games of the future.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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