The intro to this side-scrolling cyberpunk adventure features the most unlikely protagonist imaginable – a glowing spark of electricity. This makes for an opening full of intrigue, as you traverse the cables strewn across a futuristic apartment block, disabling security cameras and overloading systems, all the while wondering where the story is heading.
As the saying goes, all it takes is a spark.
Adding to the intrigue, there’s no dialogue whatsoever. 7th Sector favours environmental storytelling with graffiti, advertising billboards, computer screens, and discarded flyers used to depict mankind’s role in a gritty, robot-reliant, cyberpunk future. A poster for a high-tech child’s toy, for instance, provides context for the robotic persona the form-changing spark soon inhabits.
Occasionally the camera pans out to reveal a sprawling cityscape, heightening the atmosphere while successfully making the world feel alive. It also helps that 7th Sector is visually appealing, boasting detailed backdrops, subtle lighting, and a smattering of particle effects. It excels in sound design too; every location has unique ambient sounds, from warbling radios to the soothing hums of electronic machinery. Robots, meanwhile, often communicate with twee beeps and bloops.
Puzzle-solving plays a huge part, and very few ideas are recycled. Some use math and logic, while others are pattern/sequence-based. Even those more hackneyed, such as a take on the ‘80s classic Pipe Mania, have subtle twists applied. Often the means of progression seems impossible – including a literal case of hitting a brick wall – only for the solution to become obvious after a spot of trial and error. Many also have tight time limits, which adds a welcome sense of urgency to the proceedings as you frantically figure out how to progress.
Failure often results in our nameless hero being turned into scrap. Fortunately, checkpoints are placed so frequently that you’re never forced to replay past puzzles. It isn’t all smooth sailing, however – towards the end you’re forced to wrestle with the physics engine, which consequently feels like more like a test of patience than a test of dexterity.
The fact that there’s no handholding could be considered a downer. There’s no explanation of controls when jumping into a new robotic persona, which in once instance caused us to overlook a vital ability.
Set-pieces and action sequences break up the puzzle-solving, and to good effect. Never do they feel phoned in – the action progresses organically, taking the unlikely lead into numerous different locations, from the murky depths of a factory to the city’s sewer system. You genuinely feel as if you’re connected to a world where actions have dramatic consequences.
Noskov Sergey’s 7th Sector is a polished, atmospheric and superbly paced experience that provides some of the most challenging puzzles of recent times. Different endings, hidden messages, and a secret quest to help a fellow robot help extend the 3-4 hour runtime.
It’s a game any publisher would be proud to have in their portfolio, so to see it under the wing of Sometimes You – a small-time indie publisher striving to break into the big leagues – pleases us greatly. No, you won’t still be playing it by the time Cyberpunk 2077 arrives. But you will doubtlessly have fond memories of the time a tiny spark of electricity overcome the chaos within a daunting cyberpunk city.