Developer: Splendy Interactive, Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac
FMV games haven’t really had a good reputation over the years, with titles like Night Trap proving to be a bit… well… rubbish. It’s not a genre that people had been really itching for to return either, even if the aforementioned Night Trap only had a revival of its own last year…
Wales Interactive decided that it’s time for FMV-based adventures to return though and saw their first release in the genre – The Bunker – launch on PC and consoles back in 2016. I skipped it back then (despite being a fan of interactive narrative games), but with its recent release on the Nintendo Switch I’ve finally had the chance to give it a go.
The Bunker puts you in the shoes of John (played by The Hobbit’s Adam Brown) – a frail young man who finds himself the last survivor in a bunker following a nuclear attack on Britain. With his mother recently passing away, it’s up to him to maintain his health in the bunker all whilst ensuring that he stays safe from the radiation that has spread across higher ground. With no knowledge of the outside world and a frightened persona, John finds himself pushed to the limit when the bunker ends up having a contamination and his life is put at risk.
Of course, there’s a lot more going on than that, but I don’t want to spoil the story – especially since it’s the highlight of the whole experience. The game flashes back to the past a lot too, showing you more of John’s upbringing and what life was like in the bunker when the other survivors were alive. What actually happened to them though? That’s for you to discover in the roughly hour and a half experience.
Be warned though: The Bunker takes a while to get going. For the first hour, there was hardly any excitement – there were small clues and moments where you’ll notice that everything is not how it seems, but there’s hardly anything that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. Once the story does kick in properly and takes some twists and turns, it can get really tense. It’s definitely a lot darker than it initially lets on and I certainly got hooked in right until the end credits.
There’re some decent acting on show throughout The Bunker, with every actor putting in a believable performance. Admittedly, it was a little difficult to root for John at the start thanks to his almost wimpy characteristics (honestly, some of the scenes felt a little over the top with his emotion) but you end up really feeling for the guy and hoping he makes his way to safety.
Some of the best scenes are witnessed during the aforementioned flashbacks, with Sarah Greene and Grahame Fox delivering some emotionally charged but highly believable moments. It’s good, with the FMVs proving to be of a high quality… we’re talking more of a TV movie than Hollywood, though.
Given that The Bunker is an interactive movie of sorts, there are moments where you’ll interact with the tale. However, it’s typically a case of reading some documents or hearing John’s observations of the items around him. QTEs are limited to simple button mashing and mostly consist of clicking in one spot (or tapping the screen if you’re playing in portable mode). It’s a lot more limited in its presentation and ends up feeling incredibly linear in the process.
You’ll feel like you’re just watching a movie, albeit one where you have to tap the screen every so often. I never felt like I was really part of the experience, but rather a spectator who had to press a few buttons here and there. Sure, there are instances where your actions will determine where the plot goes, but they’re so black and white in design that they lack the emotional punch that comes with shaping your own tale in similar releases.
It’s not always a bad thing and I’m sure it will prove entertaining for a lot of gamers – I think I’ve just been spoiled by the interactivity offered by the likes of TellTale Games’ adventures and Life is Strange, and therefore went into The Bunker expecting something similar. I really wish there was more interactivity, because honestly, there’s a really intriguing tale to be told here and it’s one that really resonated with me. I just never really felt like I was a part of it, but was instead simply cheering John on through his dangerous plight via the occasional button press here and there.