Jump Over The Age, the developer behind the sublime alien ocean exploration adventure In Other Waters, returns with yet another wonderfully unique experience in the form of Citizen Sleeper, a life sim RPG that looks and feels like nothing else we've played recently.
Here you assume the role of a Sleeper, a low budget synthetic being, on the run from the corporation that built you. Stowing away in a cargo hold during a genuinely claustrophobic opening sequence, you soon find yourself washed up on Erlin's Eye, a decrepit space station that's jam-packed full of interesting characters, places, and secrets to get stuck into exploring.
However your survival here, now that you've temporarily escaped the clutches of the corporation that created you, won't be quite as straightforward as it first seems. As it turns out, Sleepers aren't built to last and your body is, quite literally, falling apart. You need stabilizing shots, which are expensive and hard to find, you'll also need credits which in turn means you'll need to work, form relationships with those around you and explore every nook and cranny of the Eye in order to get a foothold and increase your chances of prolonging your existence.
The core gameplay loop sees time pass in cycles. Each new cycle has you wake up in your shipping container home and set out to work and engage with your surroundings until you've exhausted all avenues and are ready to retire for the day. You've got two gauges to take into consideration as you do all of this; your overall condition and your energy, and both of these will deteriorate as you end cycles and make choices during each turn. You've also got several dice, used to perform in-game actions such as working, investigating, exploring areas, helping out strangers and so on, and you'll need to weigh up the pros, cons and inherent risks of taking on tough work for credits, helping inhabitants or getting involved in various scenarios in order to maintain your overall condition as best you can.
If it sounds like a tabletop RPG, well, that's because this is exactly how Citizen Sleeper plays - albeit one that's been spliced with a visual novel - and, although it can all sound a little too complicated when explained all at once, and we were a tad overwhelmed by info starting out, once you get the rhythm of the thing down, once you get into what this game is all about, it's very, very hard to stop playing.
Besides the core mechanics, which all fuse together wonderfully well for the most part, it's the quality of the writing here, the attention to detail, the stylish graphics, likeable characters, sense of time and place and wonderful atmosphere oozing from every darkened corner of Eldin's Eye that keeps you hooked in. You very quickly begin to pore over every conversation and snippet of info, make proper bonds with others and find yourself absolutely lost in the world that Jump Over the Age has created - and all of this is before you've even started hacking into the Eye's shadowy Data Cloud and doing your best to evade the hunters who tail your every movement.
Much like In Other Waters, this is a game you simply need to sit down and play in order to fully appreciate, as no screenshot or explanation will fully do it justice, and having it release on Game Pass is just the ticket to entice interested parties to try their hand. We urge you to dive in here, as this is a game of real style and substance with multiple endings to mop up as you peel back layers and dig deeper into Eldin's Eye and its inhabitants. Citizen Sleeper is a unique and thought-provoking adventure that's truly taken us by surprise.