Event [0] is one of those short, walking simulator games from late 2016 that got lost in the masses. However, with its 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gone Home vibes, it’s a must play for any sci-fi or psychological horror fan.

From the onset, the glitchy electronic score on the menu screen sets the tone for the game as an existential sci-fi. As actual game play begins, players are encouraged to select from multiple choice questions in order to choose their character’s backstory. These questions include ‘the pronoun that described you best’, as well as questions based on upbringing and career goals. Whilst it is uncertain as to the influence these responses have on gameplay itself, it helps with the world building and player experience – as does the different audio responses to answers, like children talking, rocket launchers, or radio static. The sound design is beautifully blended and atmospheric. Headphones are a must.

By the end of this on-screen narrative, it is 2012 and the main character/player has joined the ITS corporation (International Transport Spacelines) on a space mission called Europa-11 to view one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa. Before reaching Europa, however, the mission’s ship fails. The player’s character is reported to be the sole survivor in a lone escape pod.

After weeks of isolation, the player’s escape pod docks at an unmanned ‘experimental tourist’ ship from the 80s called the Nautilus. On board, the aim of Event [0] is revealed. In the 3D environment of the ship, players communicate with the ship AI Kaizen-85 by typing out their responses into terminals throughout the ship, making Kaizen comparison to Google’s Eve. Kaizen is much more accurate with responses than Eve, thankfully.

With Kaizen’s help, players must discover what happened to the crew of this long-empty tourist ship, including the fate of Kaizen’s beloved Nandi. Whilst gameplay largely focusses on communicating with Kaizen, players also carry out hacking-based puzzles and exertions into space in EVA suits.

The main appeal of the game is the player’s relationship with Kaizen. In other choice-based games, players can select pre-written options. In Event [0], beyond the initial QandA at the start of the game, players write themselves into the game. Quite literally. Kaizen, as a functioning AI, will respond to player’s own questions if phrased correctly, meaning that it is the player’s personal relationship with Kaizen that determines gameplay. With four possible endings, and the ability to change Kaizen’s mood with responses, this game feels all the more suspenseful and unnerving.

Whilst there were other impressionable first person, walking simulator, puzzle games released around 2016, Event [0] has stuck with me for the sheer impact of its narrative. Playing Event [0] is like re-playing heart-hammering, crucial plot twists of other 2016 walking simulators like Life is Strange or Firewatch, but for 2-3 hours. It’s emotionally draining, but all the more immersive. Event [0] is unlike any other puzzle game I have come across. In this game, the player directly influences the progression of the story via their relationship with Kaizen; it takes the choice-based aspect of other existing games and goes that step further.