A Day Without Me has a very interesting premise: You wake up one day to learn that your family, friends and everyone in your neighborhood has disappeared. On Paper, that is a very nice adventure hook but A Day Without Me does very little with this.
The game starts with you trying to turn off an alarm that is coming from a computer in the next room, which is locked. So far so good, a standard puzzle that makes sense. If not for the obnoxious audio from the alarm, I would say this was a good opening. Unfortunately, this is the only puzzle that makes sense.
Once you open the door to the room and gain access to the computer, it gives you a puzzle that can only be saved by trial and error. Sadly, this is how most of the puzzles of the game works. There is a puzzle later in the game that kills you for not doing the sequence right but the only way to be aware that there is even a sequence to begin with is to die.
Even identifying what is and isn’t a puzzle is also a huge problem in the game. You are exploring this fairly large map and can’t move forward until you find that one item you need to interact with and still you could be stuck.
Sometimes, the game itself makes solving puzzles impossible as some items can disappear for no real reason. And no amount of loading, restarting would fix the problem. Starting a new game did not help either as an item used to solve one of the earlier puzzles did not load into the new game locking my progress. I had to not only redownload the game, but I had to delete the save file from my system to get things to work as intended.
That is just the mechanical Issues I have with the Puzzles in the game. Thematically, they are all over the place. Part of why solving the puzzles is infuriating is because they just don’t make sense. They don’t make sense in the game. You can go from trying to find a key to a room from one second to trying to complete a summoning circle the next. I’m not entirely sure if this is because there is some cultural thing that I am just not understanding when it comes to the lore of the game but I just don’t get it. Even after solving the puzzles I can’t say why they were part of the game to begin with.
On the topic of thematic dissonance, the collectables in the game have to be the most random, inconsequential, easter eggs out there. I kid you not, one of them is the Yao Ming Meme and that is not even the weirdest one.
I touched on how obnoxious the sound is earlier and I’m glad to say, it isn’t like that all the time. While there are moments of audio that make you want to put down your headset, there are moments of quiet. Sadly, the contrast between loud obnoxious audio just makes the quiet feel off and out of place.
There were points in my playthrough where I thought there were issues with my headset. The game could benefit from some form of background music. There is a chance that the game does have background music but it just didn’t load into the game for me. That said, either situation isn’t really doing the game any favors.
The one saving grace is that the game is short. Short enough to be completed in about an hour, half that if you know what you are doing. But much of the game is you going from point A to Point B. And sometimes, the path from A to B, is needlessly stretched out by obstacles. You can sometimes walk for minutes just to reach a puzzle that can be solved in seconds.
I understand the need to pad out the game but the walking back and forth just made the entire process feel like a chore. And after all that walking, after all that puzzle solving, I still ended up learning very little about what actually happened. I think this is what offends me the most.
A Day Without Me starts out as a mystery game. Throughout your journey, you learn close to nothing about said mystery. You solve puzzles that are vaguely tied to that mystery. There is no answer to “How?” “Who?” or “Why?”. The final sequence makes you question what happened even more. Top of which is “Why?”