I had no idea what to expect jumping in to Granzella Inc’s Disaster Report 4 Summer Memories. Cutting to the chase, the game centres around the exploits of your male or female character who have to survive their way through an earthquake zone and all its perils set in Japan. Your job is to either act like a selfish twat, a pervert, or the saviour of the day, all the while mounting an attempt to escape the city and return to your home town.
To kick things off. I chose a female avatar to play with (as you do). Some limited options present themselves so if you want a blue haired weirdo you can select that. Customisation has few options but is obviously not the focus. Once I found my feet during the opening pleasantries, things began to fall into place. Basically by talking to various survivors or reaching a particular point, triggers the next scene to progress forwards. It’s not always clear and I found myself running around rather aimlessly at first. Once you get the hang of how the game expects you to move forwards it becomes a little easier. I still found events a bit vague though at times.
Disaster Report 4’s core feature lies with its choices and character interactions. I would argue this is the game’s greatest diversion and asset. I felt wandering around the city mostly dull considering the visuals aren’t great, but then realised (quite quickly) the conversations with others is where it’s at. When talking to people in-need you can act like a right ass, or worse and really have some fun defining your character. I found the good guy option was always glaringly obvious, but other choices less so. Your character lands in some pretty dicey scenarios which raised a smile and often made me chuckle. This game is very Japanese in its humour and take on things considering some of the goofy content. Think, Yakuza series without any of the fighting. It’s this hook which keep me ploughing through to see where my lovable rogue would end up next. And oh boy, there is at least quite a bit of variety. One moment bargaining with a fake store clerk over the price of bottled water, the next escaping from two perverts in a deserted subway station. Riding a scooter on the highway, and using an inflatable dingy to move between submerged tower blocks. I found the diversity refreshing despite some niggles here and there – such as the door opening mechanic which is painfully slow.
Pacing issues aside though it’s just a weird game. Its unusual approach with you playing as a normal person in the thick of it I liked the most. Although I can safely say, anyone looking for action focused gaming isn’t going to find any thing like that here. It’s text adventure, RPG territory despite a toggleable first-person or third-person viewpoint. No guns just your wits and patience. Yes, lots of patience. You’re going to need it.
The game’s graphics are pretty low quality to the point where I found them distracting for a game in 2020. But I got over that and just soaked up the goofy gameplay. There’s some free DLC which allows you to play dress up with your avatar. Maid, superhero, cowboy, schoolgirl, take your pick. Costumes make an already goofy game even more out there. Awesome. Expect plenty of glitches such as AI companions falling foul of scenery or the crawling animation not working properly. Lots of small things that don’t really affect the game too much but add to the charm. What I did like though were the constant aftershocks which rattle the world causing your character to fall over and take damage. It’s great watching a building collapse in front of you in real time. One other point of note is the audio is all Japanese which means you have to make do with subtitles. I had no issue with this at all to be honest.
Now here’s the tricky part. The game commands a high asking price and I expect some people will replay using different options. But really I felt like I’d had my fill with a game lasting between 7-9 hours. That’s pretty short for the price asked. There’s a VR mode for people with headsets which adds a sticker hunt to the levels rather than story mode 2.0 which is fun for a while but lacks substance. It also highlights the low-quality visuals.
I would say then, Disaster Report 4 is a niche game which I suspect has its fan-base in and outside of Japan. For me coming in with no knowledge of past games or what to expect it was very a different type of game. I’m kind of torn whether I liked it overall or whether it was a morbid curiosity toying with the weird dialogue that kept me going. Is it a fun game? Not really. Is it intriguing? In a way. Is it worth buying at the full price? Certainly not. I would suggest if the usual gaming tropes aren’t scratching a gaming itch during this Coronavirus world lock-down right now, then you might find some enjoyment against this weird tree.