The game's defining characteristic is that the entire environment is pitch black, and the protagonist, lacking a flashlight, must rely on a LIDAR geological scanner hooked up to VR-like visualization goggles in order to see anything.
Scanner Sombre provides examples of:
- Art Shift: You start in a fully rendered and lit tent surrounded by supplies. The rest of the game is pitch dark except for the LIDAR. The ending shows your family as plainly visible textured 3D models.
- Barred from the Afterlife: The myths say, you die in the cave, you never leave.
- Dead All Along: You.
- Electromagnetic Ghosts: The screen glitches out and you can briefly see flickers of people in their final moments when you're near them.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: A recurring theme brought up early on is that people believe those who die in the cave are trapped forever, repeatedly living out their final moments. The protagonist learned first-hand that the myths are true.
- Human Sacrifice: Implied to be the cultists' motivations for throwing people into the chasm.
- Interface Screw: The scanner goggles do NOT like getting wet. See also Ominous Visual Glitch.
- New Game+: You can start from the beginning with all the scanner upgrades, allowing you to see certain details in the initial areas you couldn't before, including your own corpse close to the starting tent.
- No OSHA Compliance: There are sections with rope bridges and no railings to prevent people from falling off. Nearer to the entrance of the cave system there is a mine where a number of deadly accidents occurred due to negligence
- Ominous Visual Glitch: When you get close to an anomaly, the screen starts glitching out and you get brief glimpses of it.
- Religion of Evil: A cult living deep in the cave would ritually throw people into a deep chasm to their deaths.
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: The scanner makes distinctive buzzing noises when its lasers are hitting something supernatural.
- Tomato Surprise: You're dead, continually reliving your final moments, never to see your family again.
- Wham Line: It's foreshadowed a bit, but: "I don't know how I died."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: While every other anomaly in the game is tied into a tragedy in their respective area, the first ghost you meet, who later jumpscares you in the room full of bridges, is never explained, though the narrator immediately attributes it to calibration glitches.
- Who Forgot the Lights?: Invoked and cranked up to the absolute extreme. The scanner dots are the only way you can see anything.