7th Sector is one of those puzzle games you can play in short bursts, or settle in for a good brain testing session.
7th Sector is a cyberpunk side-scrolling puzzle game developed by sole developer Sergey Noskov and published by Sometimes You. The game initially released on Steam on March 5, 2019 and recently released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on February 6, 2020. I love a good puzzle game, especially once that challenge your mind. So long as they’re not too frustrating, I can bear with being stumped for a little bit. Occasionally I hit a puzzle that I couldn’t solve and needed a break, but when you finally nail it, it’s a great feeling. 7th Sector’s puzzles are fantastic, and my enjoyment was helped by the cyberpunk neon visuals and dark dystopian backstory playing in the background.
7th Sector begins on a crackling TV monitor in a run-down housing block. From here you see a shadowy figure on the screen and you are prompted to move left and right with ‘A’ and ‘D’ keys. Using ‘E’, the shadowy ghost-in-the-machine figure pushes against the wall of the TV and then you appear outside the tv as an electrical spark travelling along a wire. As you move along the wire you come up to a broken section. Playing on PC, I was prompted to press ‘E’ and jump from one broken piece of wire to the next, then continue along the wire. This initial wire terminates into a wall, so you move back along the line until you see a second line close by. You see an ark of electricity reach out to the second line as you pass it and I instinctively pressed ‘E’ which transferred the spark to the second line.
The final tutorial prompt before it let’s go of your hand is to press ‘Space’ to traverse faster along the line. From here, you are left to explore along the length of the wire. Whilst doing this, I noticed the various scenes shown in the background with dark and misty corridors and neon lighting. As I was travelling along the electrical wire, I could see a man in the shadows leaning against a wall smoking. After a short while of hitting dead ends and backtracking taking alternate paths, I came to a checkpoint device. Just after this was a wire that had orange pulses of electricity travelling along it. If I touched one of these, or if they caught up to me, I would be shocked and sent back to the checkpoint. No prompts or help are given here. You are just left to figure things out, and this is the overarching approach to all puzzles in the game.
By trial and error and observing your surroundings, the solution is usually right there in front of you. Some puzzles require simple connecting or disconnecting electrical items. Some require you to play with combinations of letters/numbers, for example using an electrical box to create 220 volts. Another box has a series of patterns and on the baseplate is the shape that you’re required to complete, so manipulating the pieces can complete it. As you progress the puzzles start to get more complex and clever, sometimes offering audible clues as opposed to visual, and again trial and error takes precedence here.
Occasionally you come across a puzzle that requires further thinking, and often ‘outside the box’. An example is a passcode box that requires a 4-digit code to progress. You weren’t shown any numbers previously and there’s no numbers in the scene around you. In actual fact, when your focus moves to the background, you see a room with a bathtub. In the bathtub is a body in bloody water and it’s these dark undertones that remind you of the bleak dystopian story progressing in the background. Moving back along the wire to a gramophone, you work out if you set the music to a certain frequency, it switches off the main lights and turns on a blue light. Moving back along the line to look into the bathtub room, you can now see the words “I am sorry” and a set of numbers on the back wall. I believe this is done intentionally to make you look at the background scenes as you are often concentrating so hard on solving the puzzle that you lose sight of things around you. Some of the combination puzzles are randomly generated so your solution may differ to that of your friends.
Later on you will find yourself controlling a remote control car and activating doors, then working out how to operate a lift with it. Further still you turn into a magnetic ball and then a clunking war machine that had a laser beam that you could shoot. The visuals of the scenes and backdrops you pass, as well as the subtle music change with each sector, setting the tone of that area. It was here that the difficulty of the puzzles increased. Instead of solutions being somewhere on the current screen, you now had to deal with cyberpunk-style machines trying to kill you, and puzzles that you had to learn how to navigate without assistance.
This is where I started to get a little frustrated with the control mechanisms. As the clunky war machine, there was a chase sequence that had you shooting at small but nimble drones. They darted around quickly, much quicker than I could manipulate the shooting angle of the laser using up and down arrows. I also had to move left and right and adjust the shooting angle. It took me multiple deaths to finally defeat them but thankfully there was a checkpoint close by. The very next puzzle had some form of electromagnetic fence with flashing lights that turned on after shooting a sign-post. No matter what I tried, after a frustrating 15 or so minutes of constant dying, I ended up having to look at a walkthrough. I swear I was doing it right, it was just a matter of perfecting the timing.
Another section that I got stuck on involved you controlling a small floating robot that had a light beam that you could focus. After traversing a ‘crushingly’ challenging section, I then had to arrange five icons into a particular order. Usually you will be given clues in recent scenes as to what the icons are and their order, however for the life of me I couldn’t see any symbols that stood out, no matter how hard I looked. Again I had to reach for the walkthrough and it turns out the robot’s light, when shined on building walls in various locations, lights up the required icons. Perhaps my monitor is set too dark because I swear I never saw those icons in the numerous sweeps of the area. It could also just be me, so it’s no fault of the game here, these were just two examples where I got frustrated to the point of giving up and having a break.
Outside those two examples though, the puzzle challenges increased in complexity and depth at a steady enough pace and, despite getting stumped a lot, the solutions are logical if you have patience. Some are timed sequences and can be frustrating as you quickly fumble through them. Other times I required a calculator and a notepad to work them out, but that could just be my old point-and-click puzzle methods coming out. Once you eventually figure them out though, you gained a great sense of achievement. There are four different endings to the overarching story though I was content with my single playthrough.
Overall I gave the game a 7.5/10. 7th Sector is one of those puzzle games you can play in short bursts, or settle in for a good brain testing session. The cyberpunk theme with neon lighting and dark undertones sets a great tone for the puzzle-based gameplay. The game can be completed in around 6 hours, or more if you’re like me and get stumped often. I’ll definitely revisit it in the future when I go through those “how cool was that game” moods. If you’re into your puzzle games, definitely give 7th Sector a look.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by the publisher. 7th Sector is available now on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis