Due to the number of controls, survival side-scrollers rarely work well on console because of how limited a controller's layout is compared to a mouse and keyboard. Symmetry, a new sci-fi themed title from Sleepless Clinic, simplifies the genre to compensate for this, and it works.
Unfortunately, the gameplay lacks variety and feels shallow in the long run. While Symmetry starts strong, it doesn't follow through.
Gameplay: Survival on an alien planet
In Symmetry, you play as a handful of astronauts who crash landed their space shuttle on a freezing world, seemingly devoid of life aside from trees. Equipped with a shelter and a handful of technologies, they must forge a path for survival on the planet and eventually repair their vessel and leave. To do this, they'll need three resources: lumber for heat, food for energy, and power for using, maintaining, and upgrading machinery.
Lumber and power can be found outside the shelter, while food can be grown inside of it. However, gathering and replenishing these resources has an effect on the astronauts. Doing work makes them tired and hungry, and they'll also suffer from temperature-related issues if they become too cold. Balancing the resource gathering with the health of the astronauts represents the core of Symmetry's gameplay. It's challenging and intense, and for a while, it works excellently.
Sadly, the progression towards the goal (repairing your ship and leaving) is excruciatingly slow. The only way you can make significant headway in this task is by using power to repair and upgrade pieces of critical tech for your ship, but because almost all of your power is used to maintain other things within your shelter, there are rarely left over resources that you can put towards the long-term goal of escaping.
You can spend time researching better resource gathering techniques that help you net more supplies when you send characters out to collect them, but this is often not a viable strategy. Any time sacrificed that you would normally spend obtaining resources used on research places the entire group at a significant risk. A few minutes less of lumber collecting can end up causing everyone to die of hypothermia due to the lack of heat fuel, for example.
In the end, the game is woefully repetitive and plays out at a snail's pace thanks to these problems. It doesn't help that the characters are bland and uninteresting, either, and you'll likely ask yourself why you're bothering to save these virtual people.
Presentation: At least it looks great
While the gameplay becomes a chore after a few hours, Symmetry's visual and audio appeal are incredible. The muted, cold atmosphere created by the game's use of whites, blues, and purples truly makes you feel hopeless and alone on this alien world, and the stylized aesthetic keeps everything looking clean and crisp.
What really stole the show for me, though, was Symmetry's score. The haunting and saddening music playing as you frantically try and keep all of the astronauts alive in this frozen-over hell really sets a powerful mood for the game's narrative, and while the writing never capitalizes on it, the well-done setup is still there.
Symmetry for Xbox One review conclusion
Though it proves side-scrolling survival games can feel great on console, Symmetry is only enjoyable for the first few hours. Despite the excellent graphics and music, it feels shallow due to the repetitive, grind-heavy nature of the gameplay progression.
- Shows genre's potential on console.
- Great gameplay concept.
- Fantastic presentation.
- Repetitive gameplay.
- Poor gameplay progression.
- Lack of a meaningful narrative.
Symmetry is available on Xbox One for $17.99.
This review was conducted on an Xbox One, using a copy provided by the publisher.