Although I normally don’t enjoy puzzle games, and find them to be my least favourite part of games like The Legend of Zelda and Darksiders, I decided to give Annapurna Interactive’s I Am Dead a shot. Why? Well, it seemed like a very unique and colourful puzzler, and was said to be pretty accessible, as opposed to being obtuse like many other puzzle games tend to be. In the end, I’m glad that I did, because while I didn’t love or absolutely adore this game, it impressed me and made me realize that I need to branch out into the puzzle genre more often than I have been.
While I Am Dead is no Hue (my favourite puzzle game in recent memory) it’s a half-decent, thought provoking title that fans of the genre should both appreciate and enjoy. Hell, you may even like it more than me; a self-proclaimed ‘avoider’ of such titles.
The above may seem like an odd opening for a review, but I wanted to get my biases out in the open for the sake of full honesty. That way everyone reading this article will know where I’m coming from, and can choose whether to continue or not. After all, some may prefer to read a review written by someone who loves and seeks out these types of games.
So, what is I Am Dead? Well, let’s start at the beginning.
Originally released last October, for Nintendo’s Switch, I Am Dead has now made its way to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. We were provided with a code to unlock the Xbox Series S version of the game, and that’s what this review is based on.
Things open along a colourful and stylized beach, where an old man is taking his daily stroll by his lonesome. At least that’s how it seems. In fact, Morris Lupton — the quiet and introspective protagonist of this first-person puzzler — is deceased but keeps forgetting it. He misses his museum, where he worked as a curator and one person army, and keeps going back there. Most of all, it seems that he misses interacting with the fine people of Shelmerston. That’s the location in which this game is set, and it exists as a coastal town somewhere in the UK.
While out on his leisurely walk, Mr. Lupton stops to admire the bench that was positioned on the beach in his memory. It’s at that moment when he notices that the nearby and dormant volcano is smoking a lot more than it ever used to. Moments later, a voice tells him that things are changing and not for the better.
You see, Shelmerston is a special place. Although it houses a dormant volcano, said peak is only dormant because a magical being has kept it that way. However, said protector’s life force and strength are dwindling, and a new one is required. For some reason it’s up to Morris to find and recruit that person. It can’t be him, though, because he hasn’t been dead for over 1000 days.
Thus begins a journey to find a suitable and willing replacement.
How does this all work, you’re wondering? Well, it all plays out in a leisurely and relaxed way, during which Morris ventures from location to location in search of important figures. There are several to talk to, and they’re all located on different parts of Shelmerston. For instance, the first candidate is the ghost of a curmudgeonly old veteran who once ran a yoga retreat out of the local lighthouse. The second is then located in a garden that is full of unique art sculptures.
As you’ve likely surmised by now, I Am Dead isn’t your typical puzzle game, and it’s very quirky.
I’ve typed all of that without getting to the gameplay, so let’s do that now. Simply put, it’s basic and far from strenuous, but gets the job done.
To complete I Am Dead one must explore each of the presented locations, in order to find people with strong ties to, and memories of, the deceased candidates. These folks will have a sweat-like animation over their heads, and will share their memories willingly. The only thing you’ll need to do is highlight them and then use the left and right triggers to perfectly align the images in their memories.
As I said, it’s all quite basic.
Once you’ve listened to and watched a person’s memory of the deceased, you’ll then be tasked with finding a specific item within the local vicinity. This may be a toy boat that’s been placed inside a sculpture, a special golf tee or something else. They’re generally not very difficult to find, but some will take longer than others.
To find these items you’ll want to move your cursor around the environment and press A to select certain things, like bookshelves, bags, cabinets, or sculptures. Once something has been selected you can then use the left and right triggers to zoom in (or out) to see what’s inside. Then, when you’ve spotted the item in question, you can highlight it and press A to complete the objective.
Those who beat this game will do this several times per stage. Completionists will end up doing it a lot more, though, because each location has around ten hidden creatures to find. These wholly optional beings are found in random spots, and require you to replicate an image. For example, one is hidden inside of a pineapple that is situated inside of a hill, or something to that extent. You must first find that pineapple, then zoom in so that its insides look like they do in the picture. Be warned, though, that this mechanic can be kind of obtuse, and the images can be unclear.
Although this is all pretty simple, it’s far from perfect, because I Am Dead‘s controls simply aren’t precise enough. As with the memories, I spent more time than I would’ve liked finessing the right and left triggers to line images up exactly as needed. Sometimes they would even look right, but nothing would happen. Therein lays some unnecessary and unfortunate frustration.
Each area also has its own special type of hidden ‘collectibles,’ with the first area’s being plastic clogs (shoes) and the second one’s being wrens (birds). Finding them all will unlock their corresponding achievements, while also adding time to a relatively short campaign. They feel like filler, though, and like they’re a way to lengthen the game’s run time and appease people who’d like a more challenging experience. This is also true of the hidden grenkin creatures.
Things look nice, as I Am Dead‘s developers utilized an art style that is reminiscent of something someone with talent would create in Microsoft Paint or Adobe Illustrator. It’s cartoony but stylish, and does a good job of presenting this game’s zany world and its odd inhabitants. The voice acting is also fine, but unspectacular as a whole.
That said, I Am Dead is basically a glorified hidden object game, and it’s not ashamed of that. If that happens to be your type of game then this one is well worth checking out. Otherwise, you may want to steer clear and play something more involved.
I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed this game as much as some of my peers did, because that would be a lie. I liked aspects of it, but found that it quickly became tedious and somewhat boring. That said, it had its moments, was a nice change of pace from some of the more involved games I’d been reviewing, and is something that I respect even if it’s not exactly my cup of tea.
This review is based on the Xbox Series S version of the game, which we were provided with by Annapurna Interactive.
- A relaxing puzzle game
- Quirky, British charm
- Collectibles and hidden creatures provide needed challenge for puzzle game fanatics
- Can become boring and tedious
- There's not a lot to it