While Fracked, the last title from nDreams, wasn’t flawless, it had great gameplay and a lot of style. And that’s largely what you’re going to get from Synapse, a rogue-lite shooter where you have to break into a mind to steal memories.
Rogue-lites are all about incremental improvement. You have to walk, so that eventually — once you’ve got enough unlocks — you can run. But with Synapse, this whole process happens on a massively truncated scale. In a game with more content to offer, this would be a good thing. However, with Synapse, the rate of progression trivializes the core experience of the game almost immediately.
After you beat your first run — something attainable within an hour, maybe two — you unlock a higher difficulty and a shot at more story tidbits — but even then, there’s just not much to do. The game has two zones with a few levels each, and interestingly, they aren’t procedural.
Visually, the game is predominantly monochrome, saving color for impactful moments. As great as the environments look, they do blur together after a time because of this. The fidelity of the game in general is impeccable, though. Synapse looks good.
The real star is the gameplay. Enemies, while not particularly smart, are very aggressive, so there’s constantly something to blast with one of the handful of guns available in the title. There are a number of permanent unlocks to go after, but you’d be best served by upgrading your kinesis instead.
Kinesis is brilliant. Impressive eye-tracking allows you to merely look at something to select it, and then a quick flick of the trigger and you can crush, throw, or manipulate all manner of items just like that. There’s even a system where certain items have to be grabbed delicately, so through the use of haptic triggers, you have to make sure to not fully squeeze down on the trigger lest you break what you’re holding. It’s the most impressive implementation of “The Force” from Star Wars we’ve played to date, and that includes Star Wars games.
Mechanically, Synapse is incredible, but the breadth of content is another story. This feels like a proof of concept for a full experience, once the amount of content can match the level of gameplay.