Master Reboot is one of those games that was not quite what I expected. I figured I would be playing a tightly plotted sci-horror adventure through the metaphysical realm of someone's digitized mind. Instead, the game is a far more loosely structured affair, leaving much of the plot and the significance of its setpieces shrouded in mystery and up to the player to figure out on their own. While it's not what I was expecting, I'd be lying if I didn't say it was still quite good.
As seems to be a trend in my recent game choices, Master Reboot may be played from the first person, but it is very much in the same thread as the point-and-click adventures of old. The bulk of the meat the game has to offer comes not in the game's mechanics, but in the information and secrets uncovered as the player progresses through it. Very little of the game requires fast-twitch reflexes or quick aiming under pressure, though there are a few sequences which will test that. Overall though, this game is more about piecing together a story.
The somewhat rudimentary graphics might be a stumbling point for other games, but in Master Reboot it helps set the tone wonderfully, a constant reminder that you are in the digital world, not the physical world. Even the game's 2d animated memory sequences are explained in game as a limitation of the system, which is a somewhat obvious excuse but a wonderfully executed one all the same. The impact of the story is not overly dulled by either, and in some cases it makes the experience hit that much harder.
Tone-wise, the game rests firmly in the sci-horror camp throughout, with variations in how effective the horror side of it is. Some of the individual areas are tonally perfect, setting a low background tone of unease and general mistrust of the reality you occupy. One area in particular presents with strange sparse, generic, unrealistic architecture over a landscape of water, fading into the distance under torrential virtual reality rain, but it's not until you are sent flying from platform to platform that you realize that the water is rising impossibly fast for as far as you can see, and if you don't move quickly it will cover you too. It's moments like these that Master Reboot delivers.
Other levels do not fare so well, unfortunately, particularly those which rely heavily on jump scares and other such tricks, which may work for a few moments but largely fall flat. Jump scares in particuar are a bit overused in this game for some things; a ghostly blur running across your vision quickly while a slam sounds in the distance might be spooky at first, but when it happens every single time you come to a specific area in the level it just gets boring and old.
The takeaway I got from Master Reboot was largely bittersweet but satisfying. Without spoiling anything, the endings (yes there are multiple) are neither purely happy nor purely sad. Each is somewhat appropriate for the underlying tragic plot behind the events of the game, though still not as satisfying as they perhaps could have been, in part because the minimalist narrative-free delivery that worked so well for the backstory does not work as well for the ending.
Ultimately, I got my money's worth from the game. It presents gameplay wrapped in tantalizing hints that promise an interesting and unique story, then delivers.