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A sci-fi simulator that takes simple interactions and amplify them into something extraordinary, and sometimes terrifying.

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Event [0] is an intriguing sci-fi based game where the player has to build a relationship with an AI named Kaizen while stranded aboard spaceship Nautilus. Naturally, this seemingly intelligent computer companion isn’t all they seem to be. With clear inspirations from films like 2001 Space Odyssey, developers Ocelot Society have managed to take simple interactions and amplify them into something extraordinary, and sometimes terrifying.

When it comes to the concept of talking with an AI using natural language, I didn’t know what to expect. My first assumption when starting was Kaizen was going to be just another cute computer program with pre-written responses, maybe like Siri, Cortana, or any of the other countless AIs you can find on your smartphone or tablet. I’m so glad I turned out to be wrong.

Event [0] starts out by telling a story of sorts through its opening sequence. The player is given a list of choices to create a background for their character and their motivations for heading off into space. This gets the ball rolling and explains the basic premise of how the player ends up on the spaceship with Kaizen. Another impressive feat is being able to access the cryptic story of the ship through logs scattered throughout the terminals in the ship. I spent a good hour or two just reading these as I tried to piece together why an entire crew had abandoned their spaceship.

The AI itself is impressive as well. Right from the beginning Kaizen felt like a very fleshed out character. There were times I completely forgot I was playing a game while I just chatted with Kaizen at a terminal or asked him for more information. The main premise of the game is to build a relationship with a virtual entity, and Ocelot Society hit the nail on the head. It felt as if I was conversing with a live (if strange) person with every interaction.

This leads me to my next point…I first assumed Kaizen and I were buddies. I thanked him for opening a door for me each time and expressed gratitude when he allowed me access to a new terminal. The environment feels very empty isolated. Certain areas did have vibrant colors and even looked used, but with no one to fill these luxurious spaces it only increased my sense of feeling alone. My only sole source of information of what took place being a finicky AI I have to talk to through what appear to be old DOS computers.

Questioning Kaizen’s motives didn’t occur to me until about an hour into the game. I had asked him to open a door for me into a new room and walked in without waiting. When I walked up to access a terminal to speak to my new buddy, he became angry I entered when he’d asked me to wait outside the corridor. My assumption had been he meant to wait until the door was open, not until he told me to head inside. This broke his trust in me and Kaizen broke the console I was using in a shower of sparks.

I tried to rectify the situation by apologizing profusely. I don’t think he accepted my apologies, because an hour later he claimed a ‘window’ was breaking. The next instant I was doing cartwheels in space and in a panic I rushed back to the nearest terminal to gain access back to the ship. When I tried to get back inside, Kaizen acted as if he didn’t know the ‘human life form’ he was talking too.

Eventually, I managed to convince him to let me back in before I died. During another mission I headed back outside to do another hacking puzzle and happened to float by the window that had ‘broken’ earlier. I went over to check it to see the extent of the damage since I assumed maybe a meteor or wayward probe had been the cause of the damage.

Only the window was intact.

The developers were kind enough to let me know ahead of time there were a few bugs and minor issues with the game they would be ironing out. No surprises here, but I didn’t experience any game breaking bugs, only the occasional freeze or pause every two hours.

My main issue was with the controls. Using the mouse to walk forward and backward felt weird and made it hard to line up with the console to talk to Kaizen. I did try switching controls, but this didn’t help so I switched back to the ones I’d been using previously. Eventually I got the hang of it, but in some areas like space I had to type back to the AI at an angle as I tried not to go spinning off into the abyss.

The puzzles in the game can be difficult, but they’re also creative. The first hacking puzzle involved finding the ‘EYE’ on a terminal connected to a hacked retinal scanner. Only after messing around at the console did I finally figure out the sequence and was able to gain access to the new area. Full disclosure: I did get stuck for a while on this puzzle, causing Kaizen to change his opinion of me at this point for the worst.

Finally, it all boils down to the only companion in the game. What about Kaizen? Well, I have to say for an AI he is absolutely terrifying. After chatting with Kaizen for several hours and trying not to get killed, I have to say the developers did an amazing job on the main selling point of their game.

What I first assumed to be a simple computer program turned out to be a complex, intelligent entity. My interactions with him went from friendship, to hate, to empathy, terror, and even gratitude. Imagine my shock when Kaizen would pretend not to understand a command or request I would put to him. Right before I logged out of the game, he refused to let me back into the ship when I went out into space the second time. I had to ask him a second time to let me in for him to even open the door.

The graphics and atmosphere in the game are outstanding. Each part feels vibrant and alive, while also giving the player a sense of being alone and isolated. While I wasn’t able to finish my play through, I did check out the Steam achievements. There appears to be multiple endings, too, so starting a new session is highly recommended to achieve each one.

Interestingly, Event [0] started out as nothing more than a six-month student project, but evolved into something greater. I’m not usually the biggest fan of space games, but this one does almost everything right, providing a unique and sometimes terrifying experience in the process. The developers over at Ocelot Studios did a fantastic job and I hope they get even more recognition for their masterpiece.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell