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Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story Switch Review
Source: Screen capture

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Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story Switch Review

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is out now on the Nintendo Switch, but note the lack of cyberpunk in the title.

It’s rare that a publisher gets in touch on Twitter unless it’s good feedback, but Top Hat Studios very swiftly clarified the complaints they received. I’m not going to rewrite the review or change the score (and it’s not a terrible game, just not for me – I enjoyed the story). What I will say is I won’t be pointing the finger at anyone else and just say that I misread the press as a marketing thing, and I’m glad that I was wrong, though any sort of abuse for a game nobody has played is unwarranted.

I don’t claim to be an expert of anything really, but I will say, for what it’s worth, this isn’t a pornographic title or abusive from my perspective. There are themes you can read into and reinterpret however you like, but for me, this was a ghost story with a few cyberpunk elements. Regardless, if you’re reading this, this review and others, are just my opinion and you can weigh up scores however you like.

I certainly wouldn’t boycott a game. Ok, justifying myself too much now, but the skinny: it wasn’t a marketing ploy but genuine response from punters (who probably hadn’t even played it, whereas I played all the way through).

There’s no such thing as bad publicity – especially when it appears to have been generated by a marketing team that knows how to generate interest through the right terminology.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story would categorically remain uncensored by Top Hat Studios, according to a recent post by the publishers, working alongside Eastasiasoft. Come brothers and sisters: we have to join forces against the SJW and buy this game. Stop censorship and back the developers.

I’m not a subscriber to following the crowds, but I was defiantly a sheep in this scenario, and not embarrassed to admit it. Refusing to read what the ‘controversy’ was with the game, I felt it would be better to experience it and make my own opinion before joining those legions of Daily Mail readers, inclined to share their thoughts on something they haven’t experienced.

Non-sensical Publicity

Having finished the game, I wonder what the controversy was? It wasn’t the storyline, nor the portrayal of protagonist Mei with her bazooka boobs or ‘cosplay’ section where she could appear in less clothing and even a ‘hurt’ wardrobe. 

Perhaps what was more controversial was the lack of any cyberpunk theme as most of Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story relies on 80s technology. Other than the intro and outro, there were no signs of advanced tech, evil corporations, hacking or neon that we’ve come to expect.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story - Keep looking
Keep looking. Source: Screen capture

The tweet doesn’t address anything in particular regarding the complaints received, and I’ve surmised it was a publicity stunt. Were the publishers pre-empting any negative reviews and boosting sales now before they dwindled? I hope not, as that’s misleading. That said, if individuals are issuing death threats over a relatively low-key indie game, that’s unsettling.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story Switch Review

First impressions of Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story were poor. The animations of protagonist Mei were reminiscent of the days of miniclip.com, and early gameplay may well have been a walking simulator. Walk a few paces, interact with an NPC, a few more paces and you do it again. And again. It repeats at the end of the game too.

By the time I reached the Chong Sing Apartments, the core narrative had kicked in, and I was going to stick with it. The story begins with Mei heading to a club to meet her date, only to have an issue with her eyes. Retreating to the toilets to remove them (they’re cybernetic), she finds herself trapped in the building, haunted by spirits on the receiving end of some

Without giving it all away, Mei scouts the building for clues and the items required to make an offering to the lost spirits so they can pass.gruesome deaths.

Without giving it all away, Mei scouts the building for clues and the items required to make an offering to the lost spirits so they can pass. It’s said that this is a Cantonese tradition, but it’s present in Japanese culture too, making these offerings to spirits in limbo, leaving a photo of the departed and some lit joss sticks. You have to find these shrines throughout, experiencing a few ghostly projections and dangers along the way.

For a brief time, I was looking at Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Storys narrative for an evident ‘controversy’. The first hint was after Mei had taken off her banana-yellow overcoat. Would she be shedding more clothing along the way? No. Good. It’s not necessary as it’s not that type of game. 

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story - Eye eye
Eye, eye, Source: Screen capture

A PDA That Actually Has Some Use

The visuals aren’t anything special, though I did like the story sequences – still images without any dialogue that was able to propel the story forward. Unfortunately, the animation can be janky and even suffers slowdown in a few areas, which was a bit of a surprise as they weren’t intensive scenes.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is a side-scrolling puzzle game if we’re to label it, and for the most part, the puzzles are done very well. I’ll have to say that the game is on the easy side as hints and even blatant answers can be found in Mei’s PDA, accessible from the menu at any time.

Puzzles were mostly satisfying, and when getting stuck, resorting to the journal would point in the right direction.

Puzzles in Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story were mostly satisfying, and when getting stuck, resorting to the journal would point in the right direction. Despite the hints, the puzzles need to be done in order, and you can’t fast track areas as items will often ‘appear’ in a room that you’ve supposedly cleared.

The key thing to take away here is there’s a lot of backtracking in the game, returning to rooms you’ve been in before to locate a new item that will only materialise after you’ve completed the sequence in order. It’s fair to say that you can move around freely, but Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story isn’t without its cheap deaths. A word of warning: save frequently.

Betamax Saves The Day

For a game that features cyberpunk in the title, it’s surprising to see how prominent the Betamax is in the game, having lost the tech war with VHS decades ago (ask your parents – or even grandparents). These tapes are used like the typewriters in Resident Evil and limited, but you don’t need them so much.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story - Cityscape
A cityscape. Source: Screen capture

Why don’t you need them? Quicksaves. At almost any stage in the game, you can quicksave from the menu, and I’d encourage you to get in the habit as Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story only has two autosaves, from memory at least.

Referring to these cheap deaths, there will be objects to pick up or interact with that will result in a game over screen without any hints of danger whatsoever. This can make Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story infuriating and as a result, means you should save frequently.

One of the more irritating reasons for this is the backtracking, retracing your steps once more, and the loading times. Almost every area – walking through doorways to changing direction in a corridor results in a loading screen. They’re brief but frequent, and it’s all a bit too Silent Hill without the nostalgia.

A Small Production With Clever Marketing

It took me just under a day to finish it. There were two motivations for the haste: 1) to get a review ready for the Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story release date and 2) to find out what the kerfuffle was and why Top Hat Studios were inclined to put out that tweet.

At times, this was a bit of a chore to get through. The story is pretty good, but the conclusion was disappointing. That’s a preference thing and would not influence the review score, but it was underwhelming after the time invested. 

One of the more irritating reasons for this is the backtracking, retracing your steps once more, and the loading times.

It pains me a little to have to knock the game as it wasn’t until the credits that it was revealed that the development team Suzaku consisted of two people, with additional support for music, localisation and backers. While it’s admirable that a small group could accomplish a published title, I have to be honest with my comments.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story - Not Spider-Man
Not the kissing scene from Spider-Man…

Let’s cut to the chase: the controversial element is absolute bollocks and if there is truth in gamers calling for censorship, then perhaps the issues that have been raised could be publicised. I can’t see how Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is any different from any other game where the protagonist has unfeasibly large boobs that ruin the aesthetic, but this game isn’t an adult title. 

Similar Titles With Or Without Cyberpunk

If anything, it’s the gruesome deaths is where the mature content comes from, not sexual. But if Kandagawa Jet Girls can flaunt anime girls in bikinis and games like Tormentor are in the making, this game should not be in the spotlight whatsoever. Mei is no Deckard, but she’s not a bimbo either.

Let me finish off the review with some comparisons to similar games. Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story has similar mechanics to Re-Turn – One Way TripThe Coma 2: Vicious SistersTokyo Remembrance and a little bit of Dex, minus all of the cyberpunk elements.

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story Review Summary

Sense A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is a run of the mill ghost story with an Eastern flavour. The more challenging puzzles are satisfying, and the cutscenes are well illustrated, but the backtracking and manual saves will test your patience. It was good enough to stick through and finish, but doesn’t justify the attention it’s garnered this past week.

The score totals a 5.5 out of 10

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