We recently got a chilling look at Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason at the Leipzig Games Convention 2007, and were impressed with what we saw. Far from your average run-and-gun shooter, Cryostasis is a metaphysical mystery set onboard a giant Soviet icebreaker in the 1960s. An icebreaker, by the way, is not a pick-up line, but rather a huge vessel with an iron wedge that breaks up ice flows so other ships can pass through them. Contact is lost with one such vessel near the Arctic, and you are sent in to investigate.
Well, you do manage to board the ship, but have no idea how you got there. Even worse, the place is crawling with the reanimated corpses of its crew. According to the 1C guys, the ship itself has a soul that craves other souls, and is feeding on the crew. Your job, then, is to use mental echoes to free the trapped crewmembers' souls, while finding your own way off the boat.
Mental echoes are a means you have of entering the body of a dead person minutes before they die and altering the course of reality. So, when you enter a room with a corpse, you'll see a brief flashback that reveals what killed the unfortunate soul. From there, you touch the body, and then try to avoid that fate. In some cases this means escaping from an onrush of water, and in others, slaying a rampaging ice zombie.
Needless to say, these mental echoes are not your usual video game mechanics, but then Cryostasis is anything but a usual game. For instance, your health is based entirely on your body temperature, and the game measures both this and the temperature of the area around you. Spend too much time in the freezing cold and you'll quickly become one of the lost souls stuck on the ghost ship. To counter this, you can find a warm spot and literally warm your hands, replenishing your health.
With the unique mental echoes system, as well as environmental temperature dynamics, Cryostasis should present the player with puzzles and scenarios never before seen in a video game. Of course, on top of that is regular combat with guns against, what else, zombies. The gunplay we saw looked fun, as the zombies reacted entertainingly to getting shot. Each blast would cause your undead enemy to stagger back several steps, giving you time to work the action of your rifle for another shot. After three shots, most ice zombies were down for the count.
The visuals reflect the cold state of the ship, with ice-crystal patterns that sweep over every surface, and your character's foggy breath perpetually flowing around the bottom of the screen. It's an unusual-looking game, so its appearance matches its themes. While this game is currently made more of riddles than answers, we'll be on the lookout for some clues on this unusual mystery until its release sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.