Derby, Nov 2019
Utopia is the sister game to Dystopia, its complement and its inverse. Where Dystopia’s decor is urban decay, Utopia is all sleekly gleaming computer panels; where Dystopia’s puzzles tend more to the physical, Utopia’s use touch-panels and screens and electronics.
Your mission is to pass the tests that will allow you entrance to the elite enclosed community of Utopia – though your motives for doing so may depend on whether you’ve just emerged from Dystopia or not. The over-arching plot advances throughout both games, but more so in Utopia; that said, there were aspects of the story I didn’t follow until they were explained in the post-game debrief.
I suspect it will divide opinions more than Dystopia: it’s more overtly out of the normal, and according to your tastes you might find it thrillingly high tech, or just a little too computer-moderated. You can’t look at a panel of electronics and work out the underlying mechanism by inspecting it, so high tech games like this one tend to involve a higher degree of in-game instructions, with question prompts or lists of tasks for you to follow. That’s true of Utopia, and is the main reason why I’d pick Dystopia as my narrow favourite of the two, but even so the game hits a good balance where it neither leaves players floundering nor spoon-feeds them every step.
It has an unusual, very non-linear conclusion which I suspect will be a bit too screen-based for some players. Very high tech games can run the risk of losing the advantage that an escape room holds over a computer game. At the same time, its content is original and distinctive, and it nails the sci-fi setting.
We played Utopia second, and I think the story works better that way round, but either order ought to work. Either order is certainly better than playing just one of the two. I had a dilemma when rating them, since I’m posting reviews for each of the two games separately, but I expect and encourage anyone reading this to play them as two halves of a single extended game. Each is stronger that way than it would be as a stand-alone game; the contrast in styles and the way each adds to the other’s narrative makes them stronger games than they would be in isolation. I’ve rated them on that basis, as a combined two-hour game, and that’s the best way to book them.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.