Rating : 5/10
The Bunker is a game that harks back to an earlier time. There have been a few successful FMV games in recent times, but it’s still very much a retro genre, with last year’s Her Story being something of a breakout anomaly. Starring Adam Brown of The Hobbit fame and Sarah Greene from Penny Dreadful, Splendy Games have tried to polish the genre with a more recognisable cast and modern filming techniques. But just how shiny can they make this horror adventure?
The game opens by introducing you to main character John, who lives with his mum in the titular bunker, the only two survivors after nuclear war has driven the human populace underground. It’s obvious very early on that John is something of a wet lettuce and sadly, that made him a fair bit unlikeable for me. Over the course of the three hours it took me to complete the game, I saw him cry so much he dribbled on two separate occasions, that’s not an attractive thing.
The game tells the story of what happened in the bunker to lead up to now through flashbacks that get more vivid and reveal more history as time goes on. The whole thing is very unnerving and it plays on that fear of isolation and the unknown. The story develops well throughout and by the end, it had taken a turn that I hadn’t expected. Sarah Greene put on a tremendous performance as John’s mother throughout and Grahame Fox played the antagonist role well. Adam Brown did a great job portraying his character, even if it wasn’t a very likeable character. Hats off to the writers for giving us a really good story.
I’ve always said that the most important thing for me in a game is an engaging plot. I like a game to tell me a tale and have an engaging reason for me to continue playing. As a result, I’m generally a fan of games that put the plot first. However, it can’t be the only thing or it isn’t a game any more. Like a 12 foot Megan Fox made entirely of breasts or a kaiju Jason Momoa, The Bunker proves that you can indeed have too much of a good thing.
If it was a film, I’d have really enjoyed The Bunker, but it’s supposed to be a game. I expected it to play out something like The Seventh Guest or Tex Murphy games with puzzles to solve or like Heavy Rain with lots of branching decision making. As it turned out, it wasn’t even close to that. The small amount of things that you could define as puzzles nearly always consist of two or three clicks on nearby objects and any interaction is generally a case of “go to place x now”. Occasionally there were quick time events; everyone’s favourite method of playing a game. Usually these didn’t have much effect on the game, but from time to time you’d have a long cut scene with a sudden quick time event in the middle. Of course, by this point, as I’m under the impression I’m in a cut scene, I’ve taken my hand off the mouse to scratch my arse, so by the time I manage to click the little circle on screen it’s too late and Dribbles McWhingeface has already plummeted to his doom.
There’s a really nice score throughout, with the soundtrack really highlighting the ominous nature of the game. You’re supposed to feel as unnerved as John through the game and the dark-sounding ambient music definitely keeps you feeling the dread that he feels from start to end. You certainly can’t fault the attention to detail from Splendy in creating an atmosphere; this is a game that drips it (quite literally in a couple of instances as I mentioned earlier).
You might have noticed earlier that I mentioned it took me three hours to complete the game. That’s with 21 of the 28 achievements on Steam as well, meaning that there aren’t that many secrets that I didn’t uncover. I think a couple more book pages and one more Easter egg item would have got me a 100%. I also made tea and took a phone call, if I hadn’t done that it would have been about two hours. I’ve had meals that have lasted longer.
Overall, whilst I really enjoyed the story of The Bunker, it doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s just not that much to do. It’s on a par with a film in terms of length, it costs about the same as a Blu-Ray and it’s all done in live action. Really, I can’t help feeling that this is just a film where you have to move through chapters yourself; it simply doesn’t work as a game. I had high hopes for this title and I really wanted to love it, but it falls at the last hurdle by forgetting that it’s supposed to be a game.
The Bunker is a well written short film with some good acting. It’s not really a game though, so it ultimately fails to live up to expectations.
Gary maintains his belief that the Amstrad CPC is the greatest system ever and patiently awaits the sequel to “Rockstar ate my Hamster”