Videogames are a great tool for escaping real life. A chance to hop off to a fantasy world and forget it all. So in the midst of a global crisis, what better way to spend your time than in Japan during a massive earthquake. Which is exactly what Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories asks of you.
You’ve never heard of Disaster Report? You didn’t know there were previous games in the series? It’s ok, they didn’t exactly take the west by storm. It was however popular enough to spawn further games in the series.
The latest of which Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories was originally due for release in 2011. Actually slated for the day before the real life earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. The official reason for the cancellation was that the game couldn’t be finished in time.
Fast forward 7 years and the game would get a release in Japan in 2018 and then finally it comes to the west. So what exactly is Disaster Report 4?
Well first and foremost it is an action adventure where you must survive the earthquake and subsequent fallout from the event. You will need to help survivors also, whilst finding a way to escape the city.
What you have here is a game that feels like it is from nearly a decade ago. It makes you appreciate how far games have come in some respects over the last few years. Movement is awkward and graphics are pretty rough.
But there is a certain charm to it. The characters you meet are interesting and varied and you always feel like you are in peril and could be hurt at any moment.
One thing that I liked was the sheer amount of options you have when replying in conversations, or decisions you make. Supposedly these should shape the story. Even if it is all smoke and mirrors it is refreshing to see more than the usual three branch reply. The choices feel like a more human response. Now all of these could well just lead down one of very few paths, but it did make me think that there was plenty of choice and consequence.
I’m not usually one for meters in games, especially ones that make you manage hunger and the like. Mainly because they are often so skewed and unrealistic they ruin the experience. I mean who can’t survive a couple of hours without food?
So when I saw there was a stress meter to manage, I was a little worried I’d be spending my time worrying about that. However as a mechanic it works here. Certain events can add to your stress and you can get more stressed if you keep getting too dirty. There are other ways too that will effect stress levels. But there are also plenty of opportunities to reduce that meter too, that don’t require you to simply hunt for additional resources.
The game takes place in a mix of the city streets and within the buildings that are teetering on collapse. You need to decide yourself if you want to help those who are trying to survive or care for yourself. There is actually a good amount of nuance here and it isn’t always easy to make the right decisions.
Despite being an action adventure, I actually saw this as more of an old school text adventure, or a real life setting D&D type affair. Such is the setup and the way events are triggered.
There is little in the way of handholding and the game does take a while to get going. If it wasn’t for the fact I was reviewing the game, I may well have put it down earlier. The opening section actually feels slow and tedious despite the earthquake happening in front of your eyes.
I am glad I decided to stick with it though, because as you get to grips with the game you start to feel like the character gains more confidence in their situation and grows with the game.
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is certainly an acquired taste and it is as rough as hell. Something that feels from a past era of games. Yet despite all of that there is a charm to everything that I couldn’t help but like.
Recommended? Maybe not. But there is something there if you are curious, that’s for sure.