The Bunker (PC) Review
- Solid performances and a wonderful setting
- Good story that is generally engaging
- A medium that has been neglected for many years
Not so much?
- The game side of things is little more than hitting a hot-spot to progress the movie-reel
- Short with little replayability
- QTE's are sporadic and uninteresting
Even with the game elements lacking I still feel a compulsion to recommend people check out The Bunker purely because the story is reasonable and there’s very little else like this on this level of production.
he Bunker represents something of a renewed interest in Full Motion Video. The media was flooded with these FMV titles back in the early to mid-90s with titles like Ripper, Toonstruck, Tex Murphy and Phantasmagoria all leading the vanguard.
The trouble is, apart from the novelty factor, these mostly failed to actually be particularly great. As much as I LOVE Phantasmagoria, it’s not for the fact it’s an amazing game.
Now here we have The Bunker. A game that, from start to finish, uses HD quality full motion video. Throughout the roughly 2 to 3 hours of play you will be treated to some TV quality video production. In fact the video production is so great that you’ll forget this is actually a game – and unfortunately there’s nothing there to really remind you.
The Bunker is set in the mid-80s with the story begins with the birth of your character John (Adam Brown, The Hobbit) to his mother Margaret (Sarah Greene, Penny Dreadful) as eveyone is rushing to the bunker for safety. Flash forward 30 years and nuclear war has, apparently, obliterated the UK. The other survivors you’d seen in the bunker at the start of the game have all gone leaving just John and his dying mother.
John’s effectively still a large child in a man’s body. Heavily influenced and coddled by his mother he still follows the routine she laid out for him. Taking his meds, eating his rations, checking the integrity of the bunkers systems and then reading to her just before bed. Even after his mother’s passing he still follows this stringent pattern, promising her on her deathbed to never venture outside their living quarters to the lower floors or outside. He even continues to read to her corpse so strong is the grip of the routine!
It’s an interesting insight into the mind of the character John and following this monotony is a great grounding for the claustrophobic world that these characters inhabit being unable to venture above ground.
No spoilers to the story but sufficed to say John must venture outside his comfort zone to investigate a breakdown in the systems keeping radiation from flooding the bunker. His journey leads him on a series of self discoveries about his surroundings and the fate of those he shared it with.
So story wise The Bunker has a good hook. It lures you in with its character portrayals and sets about telling a story in flashbacks. The acting is reasonable to good and production values are pretty high for an indie produced video game. Good costumes (although it did feel a bit more 1940s than 1980s) and the real life bunker made an enviable backdrop – so great graphics then!
Where things start to get a little wonky is when you actually engage with it as a game. I can see what the developers were going for here. Storytelling through video in the same way that Telltale structure their titles. Lite on puzzles, mostly looking around small areas that are rich in detail with a good section of characters and exposition. And to some extent they manage this but there’s something about the structure that just doesn’t seem to feel engaging. It strips down the interaction a little too much leaving you feeling disengaged from the on-screen action – often not realising the game is waiting for you to hit the next button.
The result is often just a case of swiping the mouse over the screen until you find one or two hot-spots, clicking on them to advance the next video clip. These are interspersed with occasional quick time events like clicking as fast as you can in an awkwardly placed white dot before a fail state kicks in. If a fail state does happen (and this was not often tbh as the game rarely challenges) then you end up having to step back a pretty fair way in the current chapter to resume the game. Tedious in most games but watching the exact same video over and over pushes this to a new high.
The only real “game” part of the experience seems pushed in at the last moment. You simply try and spot small toys that John has carved from small wooden blocks. This boils down to little more than a hidden object game on each scene you come too just to see if you notice the small objects.
The Bunker is a passable TV special hampered by some very basic gaming. It reminded me at times of the old Laserdisc titles that would run a video stream and a pixelated overlay for the game part.
The application of the Telltale gaming formula is reasonable but it’s been scaled back too far. It often feels like you’re just there to hit little more than a “Next” key to progress the action. It’s disengaging.
Even with the game elements lacking I still feel a compulsion to recommend people check out The Bunker purely because the story is reasonable and there’s very little else like this on this level of production. Maybe know what you’re expecting and possibly wait for it in a Steam/Console sale later in the season.