Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Splendy Games
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Narrative Adventure games are a tricky thing in the sense that not everyone considers them deserving of the title “video game,” choosing instead to refer to them as “interactive fiction.” Semantics aside, the genre has proven to be popular enough to obtain a status of legitimacy both for the fans and developers/publishers. Story has always been a part of gaming, but Narrative Adventures take that aspect and bring it to the forefront. So it should go without saying that a Narrative Adventure game should have a story that doesn’t suck.
Fortunately, The Bunker delivers on its narrative prowess.
That said, the game is also light on the things that a lot of gamers feel lacks from the genre; a breadth of game mechanics and a replayability factor. The Bunker looks a lot like a movie/TV Show, but there is a level of interaction with it, albeit one that is not particularly complex. Fans of this type of game will like The Bunker to be sure; it’s just whether or not the game can convert the skeptics that define its place in the gaming world.
The Bunker has a story that evolves into something that does not disappoint alongside a very convincing and human protagonist.
Live action games are a rarity these days, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that these games are not working with a Hollywood-sized budget, so it forces developers to work within more severe limitations that can end up rendering the final product into something B-movie-esque. The Bunker is not without it limits, but fortunately, it maintains most of its focus on what it does well, and a lot of that has to do with the performance of Adam Brown (The Hobbit) who portrays the protagonist, John.
John is a very sheltered, dependent and damaged 30-year-old who has spent a majority of his life living in The Bunker under the careful eye of his mother who is played by Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful). At the outset of the game, you are introduced to the two of them as John promises his dying mother to keep to his routine and to stay on his block of the facility so that he will be safe.
Players get a playable look into John’s routine, which helps to sell the banality of his everyday existence, but things naturally go wrong, and the game is all about John’s journey to face his fears of breaking his routine. You don’t know who John is or why he and his mother are alone, but frequent flashbacks steadily reveal more and more details at a satisfying pace, showing off a small colony of people in the midst of a nuclear holocaust managing slim resources in a hopeless situation.
The depth of The Bunker’s game mechanics won’t convert anyone who is on the fence about the genre.
Yes, The Bunker is a game. How much of a game it is, might be left up to interpretation. There are some light puzzle elements at play, but they rarely involve more than simply finding the right screen prompt in the right area. Frankly, most of The Bunker’s gamification comes from finding objects hidden amongst the game’s environment. The objects are the protagonist’s makeshift childhood toys that are scattered about the environment and in most cases, simply pausing to survey the environment is enough to spot them.
Other than that, there are documents strewn about the facility with accompanying audio to give you some added backstory and characterization, and there are a few computer terminals that give the player insight into the workings of the old regime that ran the bunker. So in this case, the objects you find have different functions regarding providing backstory, but they are nothing more than collectibles in the “game” sense of things.
There are also a few Quick Time Events that pop up occasionally, but I felt like they popped up at moments where I was so engrossed into what was happening that I didn’t realize that the prompt was on the screen until it was too late. There is a QTE right at the end of the game that can cause a bit of frustration regarding how quickly it ends and how long it can take to move the cursor from one side of the screen to the other, but overall it’s nothing too immersion-breaking.
All in all, The Bunker took me about two to three hours to complete, which then begs the question, is The Bunker worth it. I would say that for the $20 it’s asking, the price is a bit high for what you get. However, at the same token, you can understand why the price is so high when you look at the production value and the acting talent that Splendy and Wales Interactive recruited for the game.
I’ve played through the game two times, and I have to say that outside of achievement hunting, there’s not much of a reason to play through the game more than once. There aren’t any truly meaningful narrative choices that create new pathways here, so, for the most part, you will just be re-watching the same story you saw the first time. If achievements aren’t your thing, I suggest grabbing this one when it’s on sale, as it is still a solid story, but one that is over far too quickly to justify $20.