And it really does feel like chatting a surprising amount of the time. At the offset, Kaizen asks you to input a new username, which he refers to you by for the rest of the game (vocally as well as in text, Kaizen sounds a little bit like Siri after a good night out.) Kaizen also possesses a generally cheery demeanour, often referring to you as 'pal' or 'buddy', and responding warmly if you thank him for helping you out.
It's an impressive display, but as I said earlier, the writing does a lot of the work in making Kaizen feel convincing. The game very cleverly leads you into conversing with the AI in certain ways, while also anticipating an impressive breadth of responses. Things become especially interesting later on when Kaizen demonstrates some of his less amiable human qualities. What initially appear to be straightforward search errors start to feel like Kaizen is deliberately hiding something, and there are times when his tone shifts into passive-aggression, becoming especially agitated if you bring up the subject of trust.
Event does an excellent job of balancing the warm and cold sides of Kaizen’s personality, avoiding him coming across as a knock-off version of HAL or GlaDOS. That talent for ambiguity extends to the wider mystery and the nature of the ship itself as well. The Nautilus is a sufficiently spooky place, its luxurious décor and deliberate attempts at homeliness undermined by the cameras watching your every move, and the palpable sense that something has gone dreadfully wrong on the ship. Even in the living room, which Kaizen makes a deliberate effort to spruce up for you, the sight of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis playing on silent loop gives the place an eerie and foreboding atmosphere.
For all its intelligent trickery, the experience is far from seamless. There are plenty of moments when Kaizen repeats himself, railroads a particular line of discussion regardless of what you type in, or simply comes back with a variant of, 'sorry, I cannot answer that.' This doesn’t damage the game as much as you might think, partly because you’re aware from the off that you’re speaking to a computer, and partly because Kaizen’s personality is so vivid. Nevertheless, it does remind you that what you’re experiencing is nothing more than an illusion, and that does impact the experience, even if some of that impact is absorbed.
There are a couple of other problems too. The game’s introduction consists of a miniature choose-your-own-adventure, whereby you construct your character’s personal history while the game instructs you on the events leading up to your arrival at the Nautilus. I didn’t particularly enjoy this at all. I found the narrative style of this particular section annoying, and I didn’t feel the fleshing out of your character’s background added anything to the experience. In fact, I think the game missed a trick here, because when you ask Kaizen about this stuff later, his response includes phrases like, 'Surely you must already know that' or, 'Don’t you remember?'. I would have preferred to start the game with no establishing context, as those exclamations from Kaizen actually add to the sense of mystery and uncertainty.
My only other complaint about Event is that I found myself wanting a bit more of it. It’s a short game, around two to three hours depending on how fastidious you are. I could have happily gone along with the game for another couple of hours. Certainly, I would have liked a larger ship to explore. Having said that, it’s definitely a game worth playing a couple of times. Partly because there are multiple endings, but mainly for the sake of approaching Kaizen with a different attitude.
Even so, what Event achieves in that short timespan is impressive. I was gripped by the story throughout, and it’s fun just playing around with Kaizen, typing in different things and seeing how he responds. I don’t think it’s quite as good as some other recent, narrative-led games like Firewatch or Her Story, but if you enjoyed either of those it’s absolutely worth a look.
I haven’t got a clue what the title refers to, though.