Developer – Hollow Ponds
Publisher – Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s) – Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
MSRP – $19.99
Release Date – October 8, 2020 (Nintendo Switch & PC), August 9, 2021 (Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4)
Disclaimer: Review Copy was Kindly Provided for the Purposes of this Review
I Am Dead is my first game from developer, Hollow Ponds. This game also happens to be published by Annapurna Interactive. Over the past couple of months, I’ve played so many Annapurna games that are so unique and distinct from most titles I play. In short, I’ve made it a point to start checking out most of what Annapurna puts out. When the opportunity came up to review I Am Dead, I immediately jumped on the chance.
I Am Dead is a puzzle adventure game set in on an island called Shelmerston. You play as Morris Lupton, an older man who is recently deceased. After his death, Morris is confronted by the ghost of his dog, Sparky. Sparky informs Morris of a volcano that is set to bring devastation to the island. Together, both of them need to find a plethora of other ghosts to hope one of them accepts the mantle of custodian for the volcano to prevent havoc.
To find these ghosts, Morris has to dive deep into the memories of current island residents and use that knowledge to gather mementos to help recover the recollection of all the ghosts.
The gameplay mechanics of I Am Dead confused me initially but after the first area, it all came naturally to me. As a ghost, Morris has been given the ability to gaze into memories as well as objects to find certain commodities. When you gaze into someone’s memories, you’ll be given small bits of dialogue as well as a slicing type mechanic. In my case since I played on PlayStation 5, I had to shift from L2 and R2 slicing together an image that went along with the dialogue until the memory was done being told. The item locating mechanic is simple, just transition to different sections of a location until you find the item that matches the memory.
The gameplay aspects are definitely my favorite part of the entire game. The fact that this game isn’t too long probably helps its case in the repetitive department as I never felt like the pace was dragging. Finding items could be easy or complicated depending on who you are and how your mind works on any given day. For me, 70% of the time, item finding was relatively easy. The other 30% took me a little over 5 minutes because the devs did a great job of hiding the mementos in plain sight. The slicing mechanic is simple in retrospect but the visuals of the mechanic add more than most people think overall.
Speaking of visuals, let’s talk about the art direction of this game because I love it. As you can see from the images above, I Am Dead has a vibrant and colorful feel and look to it. It has the style of a show you’d see on Cartoon Network years ago. Stylized games will always get extra points with me simply because it makes the game feel that more distinctive.
Music isn’t very plentiful but that doesn’t mean what’s there isn’t pleasant to listen to. It’s always debated that music isn’t important to a video game and I couldn’t disagree more. Imagine a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 without the “May I Stand Unshaken” ride or Super Mario 64 with the Bob-Omb Battlefield theme. Music may not be as essential as gameplay or narrative but it’s still important depending on the game.
I’m a little bummed that I Am Dead doesn’t make any use of the adoptive triggers in any way. This game could’ve easily taken advantage of these controller features based on the way it plays. I know every developer won’t feel the need or want to use these features, but I feel it would’ve added a bit of immersion if implemented correctly.
Note – This section of the review will include some light spoilers, so if you don’t want to know anything regarding specifics, just skip ahead.
Narrative-wise is where I have a couple of issues with this game. At the start of the game, you have to track down each ghost that Sparky has acknowledged. After your encounter with the first ghost, Pete Noach, it’s obvious that the answer of each ghost will be no in regards to being the custodian of the volcano.
I knew from almost the beginning that the answer of every ghost would be the same until we eventually got to the endgame. I still enjoyed all the dialogue pieces that came from the memories but at the same time, I knew it would lead to the same result every time, which hurt the game a bit to me.
I found I Am Dead to be an enjoyable experience for its length. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not an overly long game. I finished it about 2 and a half hours and I suspect the average player will be able to finish it in that amount of time as well.
I had a satisfying experience in terms of the gameplay mechanics but the overall narrative was way too one-dimensional for my taste. On a quick side note, the voice acting is tremendous and I love the fact that I didn’t recognize any of the actor’s names in the credits. Larissa Gallagher as Sparky was a stand-out in this entire game.
I Am Dead is a nice indie game from a studio that’s a newcomer for me as I haven’t played their previous games. It’s a good game at heart, it has its issues namely in one department, the narrative. The gameplay loop works since the game isn’t bloated and goes exactly how long it needs to go to get its story across. Now, all there’s left to do is wait patiently for the release of Twelve Minutes.
Rating - 7.5/10