Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is an interesting niche title that is being released at a very…appropriate time, I suppose. A glimpse into the life of someone trying to make their way through a natural disaster, Disaster Report tries, and occasionally succeeds, in making you really think about what happens during such an event.
Disaster Report 4 starts you off as a customized character of your choosing, who has recently arrived in a town you’ve never been in before. Suddenly you receive a notice on your phone, indicating there will be an earthquake. Well, turns out it was an absolutely massive earthquake, and buildings everywhere are now falling down, roads are destroyed, and you just want to go home, or at least get out of the city. While exploring the city, you’ll come across many people with whom your interactions may be more impactful than you expect.
Gameplay is rather basic at it’s core, as you pretty much just walk around trying to find an event to progress the storyline, occasional make decisions or mental choices, and try not to get crushed by falling…well, anything that’s above shin level, really. Basically what happens is you have to explore the area that you are currently in to find specific interactions with a person, or group of people, that will let you progress after completing the event. You have multiple ways you can approach this, one of which being demanding payment from people basically every time you talk to them, which may reward you in certain aspects depending on how you choose to interact with people.
While you roam areas looking for those events, you may experience aftershocks from the earthquake. While these generally aren’t too bad, they have various impacts, including: knocking you on your butt, dropping a lamppost on you, dropping a hanging sign on you, dropping a WHOLE BUILDING ON YOU. Not going to lie, I literally died in the first area to to getting conked on the head with one too many lamppost from the after quakes. You have a crouch button that will keep you from falling over, and allow you to crawl, but the game does a horrible job of really bringing it to your attention. In fact, there’s a fair amount the game doesn’t really do all that well.
Probably the biggest issue is a reliance on event points being completed before being able to move on, despite having no real indication of where those events could be. Early on in the game a building needs to fall over after you’ve interacted with enough people, but it took me literally 20 minutes to figure that out because the spot I had to walk over wasn’t where I would normally walk. Immediately the building fell on me because I was too wary of the lampposts from earlier. That wasn’t the worst part though, because you have to climb into the building, having been given no real discernible method of doing so, or reason other than a vague sound of a woman asking for help, which took me another 30 minutes to figure out I could get into the building.
Interactions also seem…well, forced I suppose you could say. While some lines are given pretty seriously, or have a certain weight to them, there’s a really big dissonance between what you expect and the almost comical or cliché reactions or interactions you tend to get out of people. Interactions also feel really choppy, and while you are generally given enough reaction options to choose something you feel is appropriate, oftentimes the outcome seems like it would hardly be different no matter what you choose. Oh, and the crawling speed. Good Lord, the crawling speed. There’s a distinct difference between “going for realism” and “geriatric”. Bystander reactions to stuff can also be distinctly underwhelming as well, as a building can fall over, or a truck could catch on fire and the NPCs not directly related to the event are meandering around, over dead bodies and through rubble, like they don’t care.
On the plus side, I feel like Disaster Report 4 would go pretty well with the VR option. While I don’t have one myself, playing through this game definitely made me feel like I should pick up a VR set just to try it out. The graphics are fairly decent and the music doesn’t make you want to bash your head in, which is always a good sign for games like these. Unfortunately there just isn’t really enough to give it that “Oomph” to really propel it forward. Yes, you have a thirst and hunger scale that you need to deal with, and yes you need to actually use the bathroom (something I always appreciate actually seeing in games), but there just isn’t anything that gives it a real sense of what is trying to be portrayed. On the one hand, you have a bunch of people messed up or in despair, or even dying, because of the situation, and then you get interactions that make it feel like it’s just another random day. Rifling around through people’s houses looking for chef or cowboy hats to wear certainly doesn’t help, so you have a weird sense of disconnect between what you expect out of the game and what it’s actually providing you.
If you asked me if I thought Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories is a good game, I’d have to say no, it decidedly isn’t. That being said, I would be hard pressed to call it bad either. It’s niche and can be quite frustrating with a lack of direction, and provides a weird feeling like mood whiplash half he time, but it’s oddly charming, in a sense. It feels a lot like those times in JRPGs where you have a central hub area that you’re roaming around performing side quests and trying to find items hidden in the back alleys. In this case, those are backpacks, compasses, and outfits.