Undo Review

"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Rory J. Somers opened the Undo box and started playing... He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey came in the form of a few decks of cards. And so Dr. Somers finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home."

If you are not instantly reminded of Quantum Leap when playing Undo it’s probably because you’re too young to remember Quantum Leap.  Although, looking at the box you might also be reminded of Unlock and when hearing about it for the first time you might also think of T.I.M.E Stories, but really, it's quite different.

Undo Review - The Time Line

The premise of the game is that a death has occurred; a horrible, unfortunate and completely avoidable death.  Your job is to go back in time and tweak things so that the death can be avoided.  However, you can’t just jump back in time and stop the gun from firing, or lock the window or have the soon-to-be-deceased mum call them.  No, it’s more subtle than that.  Your touch will have to be feather light and precise, causing just enough ripples to the time stream to change one event, not many.

There’s no rulebook with this game, as you reveal cards the very simple rules are explained, designed to be read aloud so that everyone around the table is engaged as soon as the box is opened.  You’ll layout your timeline, in the case of the Cherry Blossom Festival, its 13 tarot sized cards, each with a small Clue card and then your adventure begins at the moment of death.

Undo Review - Time Cards

You have the ability to jump around time, you can go back minutes or hours, weeks or even decades and when you arrive at that location, you’ll turn over the card and read the new section of the story.  The great thing about this game is that you are collectively weaving a story.  It’s not just a case of read the information and add that to what you already know, you have to look for links that connect all of what you know so far.  You have to interpret all the new information inline with what you already know.  

Or think you know.

Ultimately its a mystery story, but you’re not looking for traditional clues.  There’s no smoking gun or tell-tale footprint. What you get is a snapshot in time and there’s no Groundhog style do-overs.  You can one crack at this, and that’s it.

The game comes to life when you start discussing the story and chances are you’ll have a slightly different story to the person sitting next to you.  What happens next is your simple decision.  What do you change?  You’ll have some really simple choices to make, A, B, C and so on, depending on the card - I can’t go into details without spoiling anything I’m afraid.  Once you have made up your mind retrieve the matching card from the small deck and you’ll see what you’ve done.

Undo Review - Player Cards

These small cards provide a little bit of resolution flavour and are also your score.  Not all cards are created equal, as some of your choices may have little to no impact.  However, some events are bigger and can be pivotal in avoiding the death, but you won’t know for sure what these are until you see them (or read all of the cards at the end of the game).

How you choose to tell your story is up to you.  Could seeing something that happened 535 years ago have an impact?  Will it reveal a useful nugget of information?  How about a hop into the future to see what happens at the funeral?  How you unfold the story is almost completely up to you.  I say “almost” because there is some “heavy hand-holding” in the form of the clue cards.  Attached to each location card is a little card, of which you’ll get to see a limited number of.  These provide opportunities to delve a little further on a leap, it might be to overhear a conversation, to catch a glimpse of a letter, that type of thing.

Undo Review -  Clue Cards

But, the focus of these clues is written in big bold letters on the back of these cards.  This can lead to avoiding some cards or focussing too much on others and feels a little bit too much like ‘forced player agency’.  Quite frankly I think the game would do without this since all the cards are numbered, that is all it really needs to be.  Yet, some of the players at my table found them very useful in helping make their decision, arguing that without them you are just randomly guessing which card to turn over....

Which leads nicely into this game’s Major Quirk. Some people will call it randomness; you pick a card, read it, pick an option, get a score.  Repeat until you’ve used up your turns and add your score up and you either win or lose by degrees.That’s not how I experienced this game, this story, but you could.  The idea of the game has more in common with movies like The Butterfly Effect or Sliding Doors, rather than Groundhog Day or Source Code.  You’re making many small changes that will hopefully culminate with saving a life.

For me the game experience came from the discussions and the theories around the what, the why and the how.  Trying to predict how doing this thing over that thing will have a positive impact.  We quickly discovered that what appeared to be the obvious choice wasn’t always the right choice to make.  “Fate moves in mysterious ways” afterall and that can appear to be random.

You can pick this game (or any of the other titles in the Undo series) up for around £13 and at that price, although you’ll really only be able to play it once it is great bang for the buck.  It will make a great dinner party game, or as an introduction for the more casual gamers.  You could even pass along your copy to a friend once you’re done, heavily suggesting they pass the next game in the series back to you.

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. 

Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment