The Bunker: A live action thriller

A while ago, at the PC Gamer Weekender, I was fortunate enough to meet some lovely people from Wales Interactive, a small independant game studio and publishers based on this side of the pond. I was showed some really fun, creative and exciting games when I was there, and I’ve followed them with interest since. A few months ago, I noticed a new game pop up from their feed. The Bunker by Splendy Games. I watched the trailer and saw something I’ve been wanting for years. A live action horror game.

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Night Trap. Yep. That was a game. And unfortunately, it’s the thing that a lot of people think when anyone is discussing blending live action and video games. But let’s not forget Phantasmagoria and it’s sequel, two phenomenally well-crafted, horrifying and tense video games of the early 90s. The point-and-click gameplay and puzzle-solving is masterful in those games, and while it looks a little dated 20 years later (and let’s face it, what game doesn’t?), the atmosphere and dread is something I’ve been hankering after for a while. And so we come to The Bunker. As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew that it was exactly what I’d been looking for, and I hoped it would live up to my hopes. And did it?

Yes. Yes it did.

You play as John, a 30-year-old bloke in (not-so) jolly old England after a nuclear holocaust. From contextual clues and items, you see how Europe was bombed in the early 80s, the survivors fleeing to a series of hastily-built nuclear bunkers. It’s actually very reminiscent of a British fallout, with a more 80s tang to it. Upon taking control of John, you discover that you are the last person left alive in the Bunker, your mother passing away before your very eyes. I suppose the most recent comparison I could make would be akin to Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Button prompts and exploration let you explore the cold and stark bunker that’s been all that John has ever known. Every day you fulfill the routine your mother taught you.

Get up.

Take pills.

Check radio.

Monitor systems.

Eat.

Until one day, the slightest break in the monotony leads you to explore deep into the bunker and piece together what happened to the others. Surprises lay ahead as revelations emerge about the past and this Bunker that may become your tomb.

The key strength of this game is how well the main character is portrayed. You immediately get him. Understand what he’s feeling. His flaws and weaknesses are conveyed without having to say a word. He’s alone. Scared. Helpless. He wants his mother back. And you get it, just by how he carries himself and how he looks into the camera. As you uncover more and more about the history of the facility, you learn about the ghosts of the people who inhabited it years ago. How did they die? Where did they go? It’s a mystery, compelling and engaging that sucks you in. Even when I streamed it, there were long gaps and pauses when I was just sat there wanting to know more, to find out what happened. Scenes of brutality have weight, and carry meaning almost to the point where it’s too much to watch. It’s a simple story sure, but told elegantly and executed amazingly well.

I really enjoyed this game. It’s a little short, running at about 2 hours all told, but it had me hooked throughout. If there is to be a new revolution of live action point and click games, then please please please let this lead the way. It’s a fantastic, emotional and tense journey all the way through.

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