Event[0] Review

Play just about any science fiction game, and you'll be strolling past all sorts of glowing buttons and flickering screens. And for the past eight years or so, you've been interacting with them for a variety of purposes: save points, plot details, gameplay hints, and so forth. But am I the only one who's been gazing at these terminals and wishing I could actually type things? Probably, but after playing Event[0], you'll understand why.

In Event[0], you play as a silent protagonist who's been emergency-launched into space. Fortunately, you find an abandoned space station dubbed the Nautilus, where you meet a happy-go-lucky A.I. system named Kaizen. From there, you must work with Kaizen to get yourself home. It's not a groundbreaking narrative, but there's a compelling backstory and you'll find that the more you play, the more you care about this world you're in.

Now here's the main selling point of the game: you speak with Kaizen by typing whatever you want into the keyboard. Every element of the experience is built with this mechanic in mind - a clear example of smart design. It's a shame that this AI has problems that weren't intentional, but his character shines through to deliver a generally solid little story.

From a graphical standpoint, you'll be stunned. This is a very pretty game. While the indoor environments you get to explore aren't very big, they're intricately detailed and easy to navigate. Textures are sharp and never inappropriate, and the lighting is nothing short of exquisite. The abundant rendering effects may strike you as a bit ostentatious when combined, but they can be enabled or disabled individually.The ship's retro-future design is aesthetically pleasing and brings you into the game. This world feels lived in, to the point where you can see in your mind's eye what past inhabitants were doing. Dirty furniture, personal memos, scattered books, it all just feels like a real place. It's so deeply immersive, actually, that it makes up for hiccups in other areas that push you out of the experience. More on that in a bit.

Kaizen isn't available on any kind of HUD. Instead, you'll speak to him by typing into one of the many terminals dotting the station. This in itself is satisfying to do, with each keystroke plinking and plunking on the cream-colored keyboards. Aside from speaking with him, there are also plenty of puzzles that will test your logic and really feel satisfying when you nail them.The centerpiece AI is worth more than a few words. I'll start with the not-so-positives so we can get them out of the way. There's no way around it: Kaizen as a chatbot is disappointing. He feels half AI and half scripted. By that I mean there are points where he is trying to dump exposition on a you, and even if you inquire about something completely different, he'll answer as if you asked about what he was talking about. There is a certain quirkiness about his character that merits this kind of behavior in-universe, but it's clear that these instances were accepted by the development team rather than pursued. At their worst, they will remind you that you're just playing a video game.

Eventually, though, I came to realize that what makes Kaizen special isn't in his specific statements; it's in his relationship with you as a player. The character has a surprising amount of emotional depth. For example, there are certain past tragedies that he seems flatly matter-of-fact about. And yet despite this apparent callousness, he's genuinely worried about anything else that could happen. If you're friendly towards him, he really will want to protect you, and not just in an overbearing way. You quickly learn that he has a stubborn agenda, but so do many good people, and this personality flaw accentuates his physical dependence on you to achieve what he can't. It's this kind of warmth and vulnerability that makes your time with Kaizen memorable.

When you're not speaking to your AI partner, you'll be solving puzzles, and the way these quagmires ramp up in scope and scale is really cool. The environments are definitely well-utilized and make the puzzles feel intertwined with the world you're exploring. Your deductive reasoning about past events will go a long way towards finding solutions.While the puzzles happen one after the next and never get old, it doesn't feel like there are enough of them. And that's because the game is frankly too short for its own good. It really feels like there should have been one more giant setback to give you a few final situations to work through. In terms of making this feel like an adventure, there is definitely room for improvement.

There are also some glaring missed opportunities when it comes to your character's movement. For one, you can't anchor yourself to a terminal, which is annoying during the game's zero-gravity segments where your movement momentum means you'll frequently drift away from Kaizen while you're typing. You also can't pick things up, and instead will have to aim your cursor at environmental notes and clues for a few seconds to get information. Not exactly the best mechanic for a game relying so heavily on immersion.

You want to get your meatbody back to safe and cozy Earth. It's ironic that this game's main selling point shines much better as a written character than as a chatbot, but shine he certainly does. Event[0] is a short, flawed, fun and memorable experience.