Can you survive in a world that actively hates your existence? Welcome to Citizen Sleeper on Switch.
There are plenty of narrative-driven games on the Nintendo Switch, but few meet expectations like Citizen Sleeper. It’s a glimpse at a dystopian future in which ‘sleepers’ don’t own the very bodies they inhabit. The Essen-Arp corporation sends bounty hunters after stray property and having been pulled from a salvaged wreck, you’re considered on the run.
Citizen Sleeper is at its heart a narrative game, with the characters you meet at the heart of the story. It draws some inspiration from Disco Elysium in its presentation. Most of the game is making dialog choices and responding to characters while managing your meager inventory after you’re salvaged from a dying spaceship.
The characters you meet are well aware of your status as a ‘sleeper.’ A sleeper has no control over their body, which begins actively rejecting itself soon after you land. Managing this condition becomes a primary focus of the early game and many characters will manipulate you while keeping that fact in mind.
Your character’s aspirations in the world are managed in the “Drive” menu. You can have multiple drives at once and you’ll often gain a new one after meeting a new character. For example, a merchant named Ankhita gets stranded on the station in the early game and how you help them can drastically alter the course of the game. Choices like this are peppered throughout the narrative as you meet and dispose of characters on the station.
As a ‘sleeper,’ players can interface directly with the space station, intercepting data packets with the right tools. Players have a series of dice at the beginning of each day, depending on the condition of their body. Cracking into data packets requires a precise number, so exploring the network and knowing which numbers you need becomes ever important.
Citizen Sleeper isn’t shy about introducing fail states, too. If you mess up too many times on a job, you could be fired. The action could completely close off a branch of the story, so managing your dice and how you go about your cycles is a critical part of progressing through the story. As your character completes drives, you’ll earn upgrade points to make surviving a bit easier.
I started my play through by choosing the Engineer class. You can see some of the abilities above. Predictive reasoning is helpful in determining outcomes if a negative outcome is possible. There are also perks that help you earn money from hacking and energy from performing engaging actions with people.
All of these perks will help you manage your sleeper body easier, but you can never break free from the oppressive feel of not owning the body you inhabit.
Graphics & Audio
While the graphical presentation of the game is pretty basic, the soundtrack is one of the best synthwave soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. It combines the oppressive feel of a dystopian salvage ship and the emptiness of space. The music is easy listening and I never found myself annoyed with it at all in the multiple hours I spent with the game.
I regularly download game soundtracks from Bandcamp if they’re good enough to listen to in the car. The Citizen Sleeper soundtrack earned that honor. Have a listen to the soundtrack on Bandcamp or watch a no commentary playthrough of the game to hear the music in action.
While playing Citizen Sleeper on Switch, I did run into a few issues that are worth noting. One issue occurred when I allowed the Switch to go to sleep with the game running. Upon resume, the narrative text was extremely slow to appear. After reaching a save point, I was able to restart the game and the text resumed at normal speed.
Another time, I experienced an issue where I couldn’t spend cryo, the game’s currency. A quick save and a restart fixed this issue, but it was annoying to encounter. Some of the text is also pretty small in places while playing the game in handheld mode. It’s not terrible and the main text is never illegible, but drive texts can get small.
5 out of 5 stars
A heavy narrative driven game with meaningful choices. Surviving in a world that actively hates your existence and sees you as nothing but a source of profit draws interesting parallels to real life social issues.
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