The only real issue with reviews sometimes is having to steamroll through them in time for the release date. While there’s been a good amount of time to play Synergia on the Nintendo Switch, I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Games, not drama. However, Synergia is the one that I’ve been captivated by.
A visual novel, by the book, Synergia is set in a dystopian cyberpunk future full of androids and their baa-lated dreams. Society (humans) have created laws to maintain their relevance and authority by forming the religion Humanism to protect the species, plus many other biased goings-on – prevalent themes in games of late.
However, there’s a real hook with this game from Radi Art, Top Hat Productions and Eastasiasoft. Not just because it has an intriguing story, but I bought into the characters big time. Playing as Cila, you start the story with hints of Deckard as you’re an intermediary for shutting down rogue robots, but the practical way.
Cila has a bond with these androids, but she believes in the food chain with humans being at the top; androids being the servants. To make matters a little more complicated, humans are using augmentations (something we better get in my lifetime, having played all these games), and they’re cyborgs. Human, but barely.
There are several large corporations in Synergia, each with their fingers in some tech pie, and a hand in consumer robotics. We’re currently on the fourth generation of androids, but technology is constantly propelling forward. That 3080 card wasn’t worth it. It’s also commonplace for every household to have its own affordable house bot.
When I first read this in the synopsis, I assumed that Cila had something on par with Joey in Beneath A Steel Sky, but she has a bona fide human-like maid named Elaine. Unfortunately, she gets a bit scatty and high maintenance. The irony. Cila’s friend, Yoko, deals in droids and hooks her up with a new one, Mara, who brings to the table an exciting child-like perception and the catalyst for the story’s direction.
You might be wondering if you’ve just read the entire account in this write-up and whether there is any point in playing it. Hell yeah, there is. Synergia is, by far, one of the best visual novels I’ve experienced. But let’s put that in context before they erect a plaque with that quote, and Eastasiasoft sends me a cake in the post to say thank you. Please do.
Visual novels aren’t for me. The vast amount I played in the past had shoddy storytelling, erratic artwork and perhaps localisations that didn’t work well. On top of that, interaction is minimalist at best. Synergia doesn’t break new ground, and in truth, you don’t do much interaction other than pressing buttons to move the dialogue forward and a few path choices. However: you’re hanging on every word and digesting as if it were a Philip K. Dick novel, William Gibson or perhaps Richard Morgan.
The writing in Synergia is excellent. There wasn’t any of that baloney, cliche pulp I’ve seen in many of these titles, and I was besotted with Cila. She was believable (within context), personable, and in some aspects, a bit of a victim that you couldn’t help but root for. Mara was bordering on anime archetypes but didn’t take the narrative in the direction of trash or a paint by numbers arc.
It’s a strange experience. Like I’ve stated, I’m not a big visual novel fan, as the most common pattern is weak storytelling. It’s ok for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes – I’m a hack, I get it. But these further draw your attention to weak plots, poorly developed characters and mediocre artwork.
While the art style for characters in Synergia is slightly generic – some characters resemble one another, as goes with a lot of manga territory, the inking, lighting and ambience are brilliant. There are the hallmark neon lights and smoggy cityscapes that make this feel lived in. And the soundtrack? One of the best I’ve heard in the genre. I had to restrain myself from playing it loud so I could concentrate on the text.
Don’t misunderstand that this is the best game for humanity, but to put it in perspective, I took the Switch with me while the wife did some shopping and refused to drive away until I had finished a pivotal point. I was hooked. The magic with Synergia, at least for me, was the whole package.
There’s no standout element, but it plays out as a gratifying experience and well worth the play when you place all these pieces on the board. As for replay? Maybe for die-hards. I’m not one to repeat read a book, though I’m relatively well-read, having finished the Dork Diaries series now without any help. That said, I wouldn’t rule out revisiting this in the coming months.
Also, the title card quotes used between each segment leading to ‘the event’ is brilliant, with a broad selection of quotable sources that haven’t been done to death, and in many ways, inspiring. The bottom line is this Synergia game is a great indie title, compelling, emotional to some degree, and more importantly, memorable. It gets my seal of approval and encourage you to seek it out if you’re a fan of the genre.
- Beautiful main characters.
- Compelling narrative thread.
- Superb score.
- Lovely art style in terms of mood.
- Well written.
- Not many options for interaction.
- A handful of peripheral characters were a bit bland.