Picture Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Picture Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Strangely, the release of Returnal has been quite the quiet affair. Rather than pushing the game forward with a huge promotional trail, Sony Interactive Entertainment have more-or-less allowed gamers to discover the title for themselves, following its initial announcement in June 2020.

From developers Housemarque, the game puts players in the shoes of ASTRA Corporation explorer (basically an astronaut) Selene Vassos, who disobeys orders from high command and attempts to land safely on the off-limits planet of Atropos, to investigate a signal she has named the “White Shadow”. Though she has no idea what the journey may entail, she notes that it sounds familiar, somehow.

As you may have predicted, the landing doesn’t go to plan and instead, Selene is forced to crash land onto the unknown environment below. When she awakes after being knocked unconscious due to the blow, she quickly realises that she cannot get in touch with ASTRA and must go out on her own. This planet isn’t like anything she would ever expect, however.

It is there that she discovers corpses of herself whilst exploring and learns that every time she succumbs to the attacks of the lifeforms on this strange plain, she loops right back to the moment she crashed and awoke on the planet. Not only that, but the world around her evolves and changes and with each loop, she experiences a unique, strange vision that may (or may not) be a clue to exactly why she’s stuck in this cycle.

Keeping up? It’s quite the complicated narrative but, it’s certainly one worth sticking with. It’s told in such an intricate and beautiful way and as Selene continues to fight through the six stunning biomes and hordes of extraterrestrial lifeforms that want her dead, you’ll find yourself caring just as much as her about discovering exactly what the ‘White Shadow’ signal really is all about.

Picture Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Picture Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Not only this, but the discovery of a mysterious ‘House’ in the ruins will continuously haunt Selene throughout each of her runs. She must use what she learns about the House to piece together the mysteries of it

When you may want to fling your controller at the screen however, is if something vital in your real life demands your immediate attention. You’re unable to save unless you’re right at the start of a loop and, if you decide to turn off your console whilst in the middle of an exploration around the planet, then you’ll be sent right back to the start of a wholly-new version of the world.

I have had some personal success in suspending a run midway through, by putting the console into Rest Mode. The console puts your game into a state of suspension but, allows you to jump right in where you left off. Do be warned however: if the game updates whilst in this mode, it will be restarted and your run will be lost.

A gorgeous, original score composed primarily by Bobby Krlic is laid perfectly across Selene’s journey, whilst the raindrops and gameplay mechanics deliver perhaps the single best haptic feedback experience via the console’s DualSense controller so far.

Fans of dungeon crawlers and rogue-like platformers will be right at home here. Discovering new gear, upgrades, secrets and locations feels magical every single time it happens.

Though its length of each run may be a little too long to have no official save, it’s only a minor part of playing. It simply means you have to dedicate between 90 minutes and two-and-a-half hours to each of your runs, if you wish to get the most out of the game.

Picture Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Picture Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Overall, it’s an incredible experience and one that Sony should be hyping up more than they currently are. Perhaps when more consoles are in stock, it’ll be front-and-centre as part of their sales campaign.

Returnal is available now, exclusive to PlayStation 5. A code for the game was given to Female First in exchange for a fair and honest review.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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