Scanner Sombre is a triumph of sound design. Literally all of the tension, drama, and emotional content of this experience come exclusively from the sound effects.
The rest of it is boring as hell.
Don’t get me wrong, I smiled when I first used the game’s LIDAR scanner to recreate the walls of a pitch black cave in a thousand points of laser light. It’s an extremely clever idea … for one item in a game, or one level. If this idea had shown up in some kind of AAA first-person-shooter thing, it would be all people talked about.
But Scanner Sombre is just two hours plus of doing nothing but this. Otherwise you get a bit of story in the form of text and the occasional weird screen shake/noise blast that serves for the supernatural aspect of this supposedly creepy experience. I dug it for about half an hour, and then I made the mistake of removing my earphones for a minute.
Once you remove the sound, Scanner Sombre is no longer about using a futuristic mapping device to explore caves possibly inhabited by malevolent spirits. It’s about painting rainbow dots on invisible stalactites. Less Dear Esther and more The Unfinished Swan.
I really think that developer Introversion Software misfired with their chosen premise for this game. Maybe they wanted to advance the concept of The Unfinished Swan. Maybe they wanted a piece of the publicity from ridiculous YouTube reaction videos. Whatever the reason, the bare bones of the story driving this experience distract from what is a wonderful mechanic. If this had been a genuine cave exploration adventure, complete with finding lost species and occasional stretches of ambient light or bio-luminescence to break up the visual monotony, it would have held my attention a lot more than this hokey TV thriller plot.
This concept deserves another chance to shine. Scanner Surprise?