September 25, 2023
Embark on a sci-fi apocalyptic adventure to save your family in Somerville, but is it worth probing into? The Finger Guns review:

Somerville is a sci-fi adventure and the debut from Jumpship as it makes its way onto PS5 after the initial release on PC and Xbox. Jumpship was created by co-founders of PLAYDEAD who are known for both Inside and Limbo. Very much in the vein of PLAYDEAD’s titles, Somerville takes a lot of cues from the Limbo/Inside playbook by adding a big helping of sci-fi dystopia and a splash of human storytelling.

Creatively speaking, Somerville is the spiritual successor in many ways, but there’s enough to the game that separates the franchises, making it a good first step for Jumpship. So what sets apart the extraterrestrial from the infidels for Somerville? Let’s get into it.


You play as a Linus Tech Tips-looking father who is suddenly torn apart from his wife and child after an alien invasion. You and your trusty dog go to the ends of the earth in an apocalyptic England to find them. In other words, Cornwall, maybe. You aren’t helpless, however, as you’ve unknowingly made contact with an alien, giving you the ability to manipulate some of the extraterrestrial structures left in the destruction. 

There is no dialogue, making everything inferred from what you see. There are some stunning set pieces throughout the game that really evoke how you feel about the unnamed father and the journey he goes on. However, I can’t help but feel disconnected from the characters due to its abrupt beginning and end. I was more sold on the world-building and the alien aspects of the story. I didn’t get any answers as to their invasion or origin from the 4-6 hours I spent getting all the trophies, but they were aesthetically cool.

The game mechanics that deal with the alien detritus and the hostile lifeforms are compelling from concept to execution. But like the aliens, I didn’t care for the humans at all. I can imagine an elevator pitch being The Last of Us but War of the Worlds, as I felt those two were glaring reference points when coming up with the narrative. Though only the latter example felt like Jumpship had nailed.

There are multiple endings, giving you the choice of what’s canon for Somerville, but nothing indicates a conclusion for me, just a means to an end. There is a level of expectation due to Limbo/Inside having some blinding revelations that go about storytelling similarly to Somerville, but I do think there’s not enough story to chew on to make it satisfying.

Close Encounters

I found a lot to enjoy about the gameplay side of Somerville, despite not loving the narrative. The dad wields the ability to interact with the alien structures as long as he is in contact with electricity. Simply put, you shine a light on the alien debris with your power and it melts it away, allowing you to proceed. 

It’s all environmental puzzle-solving, using physics and your alien power to overcome obstacles. As you progress, the ability evolves into new types of puzzles that I won’t spoil. With that said, the evolution of puzzle-solving keeps you on your toes and is superbly creative. Sometimes, I found myself overthinking the puzzle when it was usually the simple answer, but I was fascinated by the capabilities it presented in the game. 

The rest of it is just walking and hiding away from enemies behind environments, sometimes the occasional fleeing and it’s a decent break in-between the puzzles as they’re never too long but create a great atmosphere full of suspense. The controls for console are a bit of a downer though. Trying to interact with objects is particularly finicky and the lack of HUD or hint, besides the environmental hint of yellow, creates a dissonance that’s not player-friendly. I don’t want to talk down the camerawork throughout the game too much, but I felt the game is sometimes going against the camera instead of aiding it, creating potentially unnecessary lulls in my gameplay.

Under the Skin

In regards to what I said about the camerawork as a negative, I do however want to give this element its flowers too. Somerville from front to back – except for one late-game scene – has masterful direction. From the opening aerial shot reminiscent of The Shining, or the swooping camera movement displaying the destruction and disarray, all of it feels painstakingly thought-out. This speaks to the overall art direction too, as the low-poly, highly cinematic scenes are arresting to behold.

The drab colours of the apocalyptic environment juxtaposed with the shining and ominous aliens isn’t necessarily the first place you’ve seen it, but it is done exceptionally well here. The use of lighting and shadows to craft really stark imagery feels much like the work of PLAYDEAD but Jumpship incorporates so much more with scope, colour and direction that it really is a step up from the predecessors visually.

Whilst I didn’t connect with the narrative, the visuals and audio do drive home the notions it aims for. There are a lot of awkward silences whilst you’re playing the quieter moments, and there isn’t much ambience to fill that either. Having said that, when the music hits, it pummels with a fusion of piano and synths doing the same juxtaposing of the visuals and it paints an overall amazing picture.

Last Stand For Humanity

I came away having a good time with Somerville, when the controls weren’t frustrating. There’s a lot in the game, despite its short run time, that’ll make fans of the previous games I mentioned very happy. In a lot of ways, Jumpship has set a new bar with what these 2.5D linear adventures can accomplish. Whilst I appreciate Somerville going for a more human approach with the storytelling, there’s not enough done to pack the emotional punches.

Nevertheless, the game is gorgeous, full of great set pieces that at one point made my jaw drop. As well as having a neat mechanic that felt creatively unique and posed some really ingenious puzzles, when they wanted to play nice.

This might not be the best place to play Somerville, even with a couple of Dualsense haptics doing their magic, but Miles did a review for the PC version last year that’s well worth checking out here. Hopefully, Jumpship continues in this realm because I think they’re onto something after playing Somerville.

Somerville is a short but sweet sci-fi apocalypse story with an attempt at telling a human story. Whilst the narrative does fall flat by feeling no connection to the characters, the action set pieces, puzzle mechanics and overall art direction are spectacular. If you can look past the inconsistent controls and lacklustre story, there’s a lot to enjoy about Somerville and it’s a quality debut from Jumpship.

Somerville is available now for PlayStation 5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam.

Developer: Jumpship

Publisher: Jumpship

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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