Sagebrush (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 23.08.2019

Review for Sagebrush on Nintendo Switch

The rule when dealing with a game that features 8-bit/16-bit, "old-school" visuals and mechanics? Approach with a sceptical mind, as very few amongst them truly understand what was great about those times. This also applies to the recent trend in retro-nostalgia: the resurgence of 32-bit graphics. Some, like Anodyne 2, know perfectly well what they are doing, while others, like Back in 1995, are downright insulting towards the things that they "pay homage" to. Fortunately, Sagebrush doesn't belong in the second category. This ultra-short psychological thriller uses that special vibe that only early 3D graphic engines can provide, to masterfully immerse you into a trip down the strange and horrifying world of suicide cults.

The following is your run-of-the-mill, adventure/walking-simulator, were the player explores its world, solves puzzles, and experiences a story while at it. The place you'll play the investigator in gives out the impression that you can freely roam around, but it's all an illusion, as this puts you on an extremely linear path (without it really feeling so) that is basically a find-key open-door loop that repeats for about one hour and a half. There are also three or so puzzles available, but they are so easy that they can't even be called that. It doesn't matter, though, as, above everything else, this wants to be an engrossing, narrative-driven, psychological thriller - and it totally nails that.

Screenshot for Sagebrush on Nintendo Switch

Sagebrush follows an - initially - nameless protagonist, who'll investigate an abandoned(?) ranch in Albuquerque; the site of a mass suicide, committed by members of the Perfect Heaven cult. It's safe to say that not much will happen in here. The whole deal revolves around going from area to area, reading notes and listening to tape recordings, which help shedding some light on what was going on here; learn about the group's members and their enigmatic leader, as well as of the events that led to the tragic event that ended their life - and yet, that's all it needs to get you hooked, leaving you unable to put the gamepad aside before reaching the end.

The complete feeling of solitude, combined with the slow descent to the madness that is religious fanaticism, creates an unparalleled sense of dread and discomfort. Are you really alone, or is someone watching from the shadows? Is there something more here than bushes, sand, and abandoned trailers? This is like a monster-less Silent Hill, with the sound of crickets, doors, and your own two feet being the only thing that you'll hear, and a flashlight that makes it easier to see, while also giving everything an otherworldly aura. 'Atmospheric' is too weak a word to describe this. Speaking of Silent Hill, it's now time to talk about the visuals.

Screenshot for Sagebrush on Nintendo Switch

Sagebrush uses a graphic engine that's heavily reminiscent of the original PlayStation, and in doing so, increases the overall eeriness sky-high - the way the sun sets, casting long shadows, before giving way to the starry night is especially bewitching. Sure, it's an acquired taste, but this "ugly" art style greatly helps here. In fact, the same can be said about the deadpan voice-acting of the tape recordings. It definitely has an amateurish stench, but, intentional or not, it adds to the whole feeling of uneasiness - another similarity with the psychological horror masterpiece that is Silent Hill. Generally, the Black Sage Ranch feels real; a place where actual people lived and died in

Screenshot for Sagebrush on Nintendo Switch

Another thing that's hard to ignore, is how, while exploring the subject of cults, this approaches everything in a way comes off as surprisingly respectful, or at least detached. The characters in here aren't the kind of hillbilly loonies one can find in a Stephen King novel. Sure, they are loonies, but Sagebrush is more concerned with showing "why" what led them go nuts. It takes a look on how, on the process of trying to find happiness, some people accepted such levels of crazy. That isn't to say that it gives any answers. This journey makes the right choice, and avoids making any comments on the situation. It just shows things and that's it.

Needless to say that this isn't for everyone. Those looking for a meatier point-and-click adventure should better look elsewhere, as this keeps things quite simple. Plus, while the Black Sage Ranch isn't exactly gargantuan, it is surely big, and this constant running back and forth between locations can get a bit tedious, although that's handled in such a way that it helps to create tension. Lastly, Sagebrush is a very short story that ends in less than two hours. It's the perfect length for what's on offer, but that also means that there's not really any point in experiencing it twice. Having said that, the price is great, thus fans of narrative-driven thrillers are definitely advised to try it out.

Screenshot for Sagebrush on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Strictly as an adventure-type videogame, Sagebrush is as simplistic one can get. As an experience, though, it's an unforgettable journey to the bizarre world of religious fanaticism, and, more specifically, suicide cults; one with an incredibly immersive, hair-raising atmosphere, in great part courtesy of its incredibly fitting, 32-bit era visuals, and minimalist approach to sound. If a fan of short, narrative-driven, psychological thrillers, this is a must-buy.

Developer

Redact Games

Publisher

Ratalaika Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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