Top Critic Average
Scanner Sombre is at its best when you're left to your own devices, lonely yet in awe of the sights you see and make, but suffers when the game itself is pulling the strings, whether that be to evoke empathy or terror. I absolutely recommend it, for its four or so hours of dot-matrix world-generation have pleased me greatly, but you should go in knowing that it stumbles over its storytelling hurdles and should instead be treated as, like the titular scanner, a remarkable technological toy.
While a unique and wonderful experience, the extremely short length of the game, and little replay value make it hard to recommend to everyone. But as the game has a free demo available on Steam, anyone even remotely interested should try it as soon as they have a free few minutes.
By the end of the game, you’ll wonder where the last 90 minutes evaporated so quickly, but you won’t wish you had them back. Scanner Sombre is an excellently unique adventure, that builds layer upon layer or intrigue and trepidation as you inch towards the surface. About halfway through, Introversion telegraphs the ending, and if there’s any real fault to this palate cleanser it’s that you wind up able to guess how the game will conclude before you actually get there – a cardinal sin for a one-time-through story.
Scanner Sombre is a gimmick game, and I honestly say that without any ill intent. Its gimmick is beautiful and engaging and kind of amazing. To its credit, Scanner Sombre is seemingly aware of the limitations of this because it's brief enough to not wear out its welcome. However, the kaleidoscopic interior decorating is a means to an end, and that end just isn't as thrilling as what's in the mind's eye.
Scanner Sombre is a quick, beautiful and melancholic distraction with an interesting twist, but its main puzzle is navigating the caves, which can become confusing and frustrating due to everything being made of the same beams of light.
Highly experimental, Introversion's Prison Architect follow-up has you mapping out a dark cave with a handheld LIDAR scanner. It's an inspired premise, but doesn't go much of anywhere.
Sadly, Scanner Sombre never really attains the heights of Dear Esther and Gone Home, two games that Introversion site as inspirations. If you have an interest in that genre, it's still very much worth exploring the cavernous depths of Scanner Sombre, but more than its fellows, this is a striking idea that searches for a game and a story to make the most of it.