A Space Odyssey
There’s nothing comparable to the vastness of outer space. It can be beautiful and majestic, or it can be lonely, hostile and scary. In fact, it doesn’t take much to go from one extreme to the other. At one moment, you could be aboard a spaceship with a full crew, knee deep in an important mission to the moon of Europa.
And the next moment you’re all alone in an escape pod.
Event  is a first person puzzle game, taking place on a vacant spaceship that’s stranded inside the orbit of Jupiter. Though the ship has been abandoned for twenty years, the AI interface remains functional. Players can interact with the AI—whose name is Kaizen—by typing at any one of the game’s terminals. By speaking to Kaizen, players can form a relationship with him, as well as piece together the fate of the ship’s previous crew.
Kaizen controls many of the ship’s basic functions. He can open doors, turn on lights, and control elevators. Each terminal also has a list of logs, and these must be examined in order to attain certain information and solve specific puzzles. Kaizen can also be persuaded into discussing his own origins, and the relationships he’s formed with previous people. Most interestingly, he’s a temperamental AI, and his responses will change if he feels that you aren’t treating him well.
The game’s controls are simple. You can move about the ship by using the mouse, and you can hover over objects to examine them. Objects in the environment can’t be opened or manipulated, which means that Kaizen is your only real tool for puzzle solving. When you are at a terminal, you are free to use your keyboard in order to speak with and direct Kaizen. There isn’t an obvious guide for communicating with him, but he’s more or less designed to respond to plain English. Each door has a numerical designation, and he’ll sometimes give you hints as to where you may need to go next.
Event ‘s most intriguing feature is your relationship with Kaizen, as much of the game’s backstory is hidden within his memory banks. As he reveals bits and pieces about the story, you will find threads to grab onto, and you can ask him for more details. Before long, it becomes clear that he is a sentient being with a wide range of emotions. He has felt pain and love and spite and anger. With that, his words are not those of an objective machine, but of a being that’s capable of its own agency. Can you really trust Kaizen?
An equally important question to prospective players might be, “Can you really talk to Kaizen?” For the purposes of playing and finishing the game, Kaizen is a perfectly serviceable AI, but he has obvious flaws and limitations. You can’t simply expect to speak with him in plain English and have a conversation that mimics one that you might have in real life. Kaizen will make every effort to search your text for keywords in order to answer you appropriately, but many times he doesn’t seem to understand you at all, and will disperse random dialogue instead. There are times when Kaizen is scripted to give you information, and your responses are seemingly ignored in order for him to continue his current train of thought. Eventually, I learned to recognize when this was happening, as it is often when you enter a new room or complete a specific task. In these situations, you can literally respond with gibberish, and he’ll just keep on talking as if you’re giving him valid responses.
Part of the game is just puzzling through Kaizen’s chatbox and figuring out how to prod him into telling you what you want to know. Sometimes you can hit a brick wall when you’re asking perfectly valid questions, but when you do actually pry out a piece of new information, it feels special. It’s fun to watch the story take shape, and that extra bit of effort makes it all the more worthwhile.
Of course, Event  is more than just Kaizen and his chatbox. There are a handful of puzzles to solve before you can make your way to the last room and finish the game. Many areas of the ship are locked out from the start, and you have to figure out where to go and what to do. It’s a fairly straightforward process, and the game as a whole isn’t very long; perhaps hovering around three hours, depending on how long you spend conversing with Kaizen. The game feels different depending on your relationship with him, so there is a reason to replay.
The ship itself is nicely rendered, with a few gorgeous areas. On the bottom floor, a massive garden is growing wild, with big green branches curling around the ship’s surfaces. In another area, a long side window overlooks the planet Jupiter, whose clouds subtly shift across its massive body. The visuals are met by a minimalist soundtrack. Music is used sparingly but effectively, and the game’s small amount of voice work is well done and effective. When you type to Kaizen, he chatters back in semi-comprehensible robot speak. The sound design works really well for maintaining the game’s atmosphere, and contributes to the player’s sense of isolation.
Event ’s presentation is well-crafted throughout, from the opening menus through the exposition of the story. The gameplay is fun, but suffers the aforementioned issues with Kaizen’s comprehension. It’s also short on length and on puzzles. There are only a few puzzles to solve, but they are creative, and some make use of the entire keyboard.
If anything, Event  leaves you wanting more. It makes you wish for a bigger ship, for a more robust chat feature, and for a few more puzzles. Obviously that means the game is doing something right, but it also feels incomplete. That said, Event  is a commendable experience, because it ventures into a new and exciting place. It’s fun to chat with Kaizen, even if it’s limited. I hope that future video games will expand upon the foundation built by Event .