HIGH The apartment building is genuinely spooky.
LOW Constantly backtracking is a nuisance.
WTF I bought a soda and I died.
The year is 2083. Mei, the protagonist of Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is walking the abandoned halls of the Chong Sing apartment building, confused about how she got there and even more confused about how to leave.
The cold, dark corridors are straight out of another century, and each room she explores tells her of residents who used to live in this building — but something isn’t right.
There’s a creak, a moan, and suddenly a man whose neck seems to be snapped slowly starts limping towards Mei. She makes a mad dash for the elevator and hammers the buttons trying to escape what can only be a ghost.
The elevator arrives just in time to whisk Mei to the next floor, not knowing what awaits her as she ascends…
Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story is a 2.5D puzzle adventure taking place in the not-so-far-off future of 2083. The player controls Mei Lin Mak, a young woman out on a date before mysteriously ending up stuck inside an old apartment building with no idea how to escape.
The gameplay in Sense is very much old school adventure-style. Mei will traverse several floors inside the building while encountering mysteries and ghosts. Along the way, she’ll pick up items and combine them to solve puzzles. There is some combat, but when it crops up it’s just a one-button-press affair when meeting enemies, and there’s not much to it.
Sense‘s atmosphere is spooky. Environments are pretty dim outside the beam of Mei’s flashlight, and the ghosts encountered are demonic-looking, with snapped necks, gouged-out eyes, and long claws for fingers. Discovering how these people died through puzzle-solving and Mei’s growing abilities to sense the ghosts is genuinely terrifying.
In fact, a few of these ghosts definitely caught me off guard — having one run across the screen to grab a gold coin out of my pocket threw me for a loop, and encountering the little girl ghost for the first time had some real The Shining energy. The most stressful ghost I stumbled upon turned out to be a serial killer doctor who chased me through the halls of the building with a surgical saw. My heart was pumping!
Interestingly, the ‘cyberpunk’ aesthetic comes into play only at the start of Sense. Walking down the street at the story’s opening shows slivers of the futuristic setting the game takes place in — cybernetic humans, neon lights, and floating security drones. While in the apartment building, I completely forgot it was set in the future because the structure has been untouched for many, many years. Everything looks exactly like how it would have looked back in 2021. Considering how little it’s used, having Cyberpunk in the title is a little misleading.
Putting the unused futuristic setting aside, a big issue I had with Sense is the backtracking. I was constantly coming across items I knew were vital (they’re highlighted in purple) but Mei isn’t be able to grab them until they’re needed. It was common to hit a puzzle on floor 4, have to go all the way back down to floor 1 to grab an item, then to go to floor 3 for something else, and then go back to floor 1 to complete the task. It’s utterly tedious and only made worse by multiple loads on each floor and before each room. The quality of these puzzles is also lacking — mostly just find a key or find an item — and they never amounted to much of substance.
Sense also has some technical issues (I hit a bug that made me replay about two hours) and it also has some bizarre deaths. Things like buying the wrong thing out of a soda machine will outright kill Mei, and something unprompted like not throwing a bouncy ball will also result in a trip back to the main menu. I suggest saving often.
Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story offers an interesting Chinese-themed ghost experience and there were moments when I could feel my heart race while trying to escape the deadly spirits chasing me. However, those chills are dulled by excessive backtracking and slow progress — and in the end, those were scarier.
— Cody Bolster
Disclosures: This game is developed by Suzaku and published by Top Hat Studios. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the singleplayer mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Language, and Suggestive Themes. The player will encounter dead bodies and mutilated corpses. The language has some swear words. Female character models are extremely exaggerated and seem suggestive.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The game does have any sort of audio cues that the player would need for successful play. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.