Project Anomaly: Urban Supernatural Investigator PAX West Impression
This psychological approach and tracking down clues makes it rewarding when taming the next adorable anomaly.
Collecting critters has been a favourite pastime of RPG fans for a very long time now. Taking photos of these creatures has traditionally been a lot of fun as well. Combining photos, quests, and critter collection is what Project Anomaly: Urban Supernatural Investigator from developer Dark Science is all about. This cryptid-themed monster collector is also relying on story telling and mini-games to capture the hearts of its players as there’s no combat to be found in the title.
In Project Anomaly, the goal is to hunt for the roughly 120 anomalies shown in a hand-drawn art style for friendly co-existence and research. The protagonist has just signed on as an investigator for Professor Shaw, who hands them a camera and wonders if the player heard a noise. Moving around the 2.5D space, players use the camera to look in the corner of the office to see the adorable dog-like Narikabe in the corner. After chatting with this friendly critter, they initiate a game of hide and seek, which has players look in the other corner to find them again and tame them. The demo makes taming feel like a completion of a quest chain, with each one associated with a different storyline.
These stories can be found by going out on hunts in shifts during the day or night, each at two different parts of town, giving four places to explore in total. Quests are unlocked by finding and exploring dialogue options. For example, when talking with enforcer Wes, he mentions that there’s something going on at night time, allowing the relevant quest to begin. Players have to talk around and remember clues to track down these anomalies. A in-game shift takes six minutes of real time to complete, with players running around finding clues or taming anomalies if they can track them down. One simple quest had players talk to a townsperson whose shop went up in mysterious flames. Using the camera players can follow a trail of fire to a Firerat and take a picture of it to complete the quest. Each anomaly has a cute and cuddly quality to them, even the more monstrous ones aren’t horrific to look at.
Project Anomaly is a title of making friends and dealing with psychological conflict, as even when anomalies attack players it only causes the shift to be over and players having to explore again to find out what went wrong. There’s a very layered approach to taming anomalies as it involves a lot of thought and conversation, but there’s no real danger to the player, making it a soothing experience. The music backs this up with a measured beat that follows them around. Finding anomalies can be quest-based or sporadically found along the way, so exploration is always welcome. Even the helpful bat-like Hooh, a creature that works as an assistant for the player, is adorable.
With everything being colourful and friendly to approach, it makes this a fun and quaint title to dive into without worries. Not all of the anomalies start out on the friendly side though, and some have to be understood properly to tame them. This psychological approach and tracking down clues makes it rewarding when taming the next adorable anomaly. A public demo with 22 anomalies is currently available on Steam and there’s no current timetable on a final release, but will be available for PC when it does finish. Project Anomlay: Urban Supernatural Investigator has a refreshingly easygoing attitude to it and will be fun to see how diverse these anomalies look in the future.