Capsule Review: Disaster Report

A game about surviving and escaping a collapsing city on an artificial island. Gameplay includes elements of 3D platformers, adventure games, survival games, and even dating sims.

Gameplay is split into a series of areas you must navigate and survive. Debris, damaged buildings, and uneven terrain present obstacles to get around, while earthquake aftershocks and newly-falling debris present threats to avoid. Usually you’re just trying to get through to the next area, but occasionally the story will lead you to other goals such as helping survivors or finding a missing dog. Reaching your objective is sometimes just a matter of sufficient exploration, but it can also involve basic platforming challenges or inventory-based puzzles such as getting a fire extinguisher to put out a fire blocking your path.

Along the way you must manage your health and your thirst, with water sources also being the game’s save points. There are many optional paths to explore and objects to find - some of which are cosmetic like hats and sunglasses, some are consumables like bandages and water, and some are utility items such as a flashlight or water purifier. You also spend most of the game with a companion or two and the game tracks your relationship with the two possible female companions based on the choices you make.

There’s a compelling concept here, but unfortunately the game often gets in its own way. Many hazards cause instant death and require trial-and-error guesswork to find the safe way forward. Thankfully, punishment is low due to frequent checkpoints, but the result is still unfair-feeling and tension-deflating. It also completely defangs the resource management aspects since you respawn with full health and thirst meters - meaning that if you’re injured or running low on water, the best thing to do is often to find a quick way to kill yourself.

Many of the game’s set pieces are very obviously contrived, with buildings and terrain being stable until you show up and then collapsing around you to present an obstacle course or behind you to block off backtracking. It’s also implausible just how often rescue vehicles leave immediately before you could have gotten on. And although the story has an interesting premise, the urgency evaporates when the game decides it’s time to provide exposition and backstory. This also leads to a too-lengthy and too-frustrating stealth section where you’re evading human aggressors out to kill you instead of trying to survive and escape the disaster that is the game’s hook. And the opportunity for emotional investment is dampened somewhat by some very implausible physics and nobody acting like a real person.

These flaws obscure but cannot completely hide the game’s core appeal. The safety and security of a modern city turning into a death course around you recontextualizes the familiar in a thrilling way. While the graphics are less spectacular today, the scale of the destruction is impressive and provides a compelling atmosphere and justification for the platforming and exploration challenges. It’s a powerful premise and an interesting experiment even if the execution is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s not at all surprising the franchise became a cult classic and I’m hoping the upcoming fourth game in the series gets a western localization.

I Stopped Playing When: Senpai-chan and I completed a single playthrough (about six and a half hours). While some aspects of the design are clearly meant to provide replay value, the only significant difference is that you go through some different areas in the middle of the game if you choose to accompany one character instead of another. We chose not to replay the rest of the game to see the fraction of new content.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.