Unreal Life – Review
Follow Genre: Point-and-click adventure, puzzle game
Developer: Hako Life
Publisher: Hako Life, room6, Unties
Platform: PC, Switch, Android, iOS
Tested on: Switch

Unreal Life – Review

Site Score
Good: An emotional and atmospheric journey that will linger with you
Bad: Actual gameplay isn't very deep
User Score
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

American readers may get a sense of déjà vu when reading the review below. After all, didn’t Unreal Life come out on Switch a year ago? Well yes, it did arrive on the US eShop in 2020, but Europe was left out in the cold, for some inexplicable reason. Fortunately, European Switch owners can now get their hands on this atmospheric point and click title. Was it worth the wait?


Before we delve into the details of Unreal Life’s narrative, we need to address a few things. This is a game that isn’t easy to explain without experiencing it for yourself. While we’re more than happy to give away the basic premise, it’s important to understand that this is a slow burn and that the story unfolds in weird and unpredictable ways. When you decide to take this journey -and you absolutely should because this game deserves all the recognition it can get- you’ll find that you’ll be taken on a six-hour odyssey that will linger with you long after the credits roll. It’s a poignant Alice in Wonderland-like journey that covers themes like existentialism and even suicide, and it isn’t afraid to stray off the beaten path.

Our story starts with 195, an AI wireless traffic light (don’t ask) as he finds an unconscious young girl. The girl, who is referred to as Hal, suffers from memory loss and has even lost the ability to read. She has the ability to touch objects and read their memories; an ability that puts her on the trail of Miss Sakura, her teacher. Hoping that Miss Sakura has answers as to how and why Hal ended up in her current situation, 195 and Hal embark on a journey to find the lost teacher. Along the way, they’ll run into an increasingly bizarre cast of characters and even more mesmerizing situations.


From a visual point of view, Unreal Life isn’t all that impressive at first glance. The game utilizes simplistic pixel art and a muted color palette. Character designs are oversimplified, and it’s often difficult to make out what’s on the screen. This is not in the least because some of the sprites represent tiny characters, like a mouse or even a ball of moss, which are roughly five pixels high. Yet despite all of these seeming negatives, it all makes sense in practice and works wonderfully. Thanks to subtle (and less subtle) visual effects, such as small distortions, directed blurring, and sudden cutaways, an otherworldly atmosphere is created.

Eagle-eyed viewers that have already taken Unreal Life for a spin may notice that we’ve only included screenshots from the first two chapters of the game, despite the fact that some of the more memorable visuals only arrive later on. The reason for this is twofold. We wanted to avoid giving away any spoilers for the latter half of Unreal Life, which anyone that has played through this odyssey will understand. The other, perhaps less obvious cause, is that we found ourselves so enthralled in the story that we didn’t realize we stopped taking screenshots until after the credits rolled. It’s a testament to how gripping this tale is, despite the less than stellar visuals.


Unreal Life’s soundscape follows the same less-is-more design philosophy as the game’s visuals. Voiceovers are replaced with gibberish, the OST mainly consists of understated piano tunes, and ambient sound effects are simplistic beeps and boops. The audio took some getting used to -especially the gibberish- but after a while, it clicked and we were able to discern the emotions that were put into characters’ nonsensical vocalization.


Perhaps surprisingly, Unreal Life’s weakest element lies in its actual gameplay. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with what’s on offer here, but this is a narrative experience first and foremost. Strip away the gripping story, and you’re left with a relatively barebones point-and-click experience with simplistic puzzles. The game isn’t particularly challenging, and although there are two endings, there isn’t a whole lot of replay value once the credits roll for the second time -and by the second playthrough, you already know how to deal with the puzzles.

This makes it sound like there aren’t any surprises to Unreal Life’s gameplay, but fortunately, developer Hako Life isn’t afraid to play with some of the conventions of the genre. Puzzles are never punishingly difficult but they aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. A good example from early on in the game involves leaving a hotel room that seemingly has no door. The solution to this conundrum is letting Hal walk into the darkness where a wall should be by conventional video game logic. Quite a lot of the solutions involve out-of-the-box thinking and forgetting the unwritten rules that you learned from other games. Within Unreal Life’s otherworldly universe, the logic applied makes sense however, and once you find yourself in the right mindset, puzzle-solving becomes incredibly easy.

In theory, this makes Unreal Life a difficult title to recommend for those seeking challenging logic puzzles. In practice, however, this is a game where the sum is exponentially greater than its parts. Unreal Life isn’t a good puzzle game, but as a storytelling device, it is a wonderful and engaging experience. We couldn’t imagine Hako Life telling this story in any other way too. There are just enough gameplay elements present to keep players engaged and on their toes at all times, but they never truly take the front stage, instead giving ample room to the game’s characters and atmosphere to make emotional connections to the player.


It’s hard to fully convey what Unreal Life is like. It’s a game that isn’t going to appeal to everyone because of how absurd and inaccessible it can be at times. It’s a niche title, for a niche audience. If you’re part of that audience, then you’re absolutely going to adore what’s on offer here. So, if you have just a modicum of interest in what the game has to offer, then we’re going to simply tell you to take the plunge. We’re not going as far as to claim that Unreal Life is a life-changing experience, but if you’re part of that niche audience that the game aims for, then after you’ve played it, you’ll probably agree that it’s a fantastic piece of art.

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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Unreal Life - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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