Live action point and click games are a rare breed these days, especially on consoles. Can The Bunker revitalize a long-forgotten genre?
The Bunker takes place in an alternate history version of the Cold War where the bombs really did go off. You control John, the last surviving member of a subterranean nuclear shelter. For most of his life, he has lived underground while following the same daily routine: eating, checking his radiation level and taking his vitamins. But one day, the bunker's systems start to fail and John must venture into the lower reaches of the complex to confront his fears...
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that a game like this can live or die depending on its acting chops and budget. Fortunately, I'm pleased to report that The Bunker succeeds in both of these regards. It features excellent performances across the board from a cast of experienced actors who have starred in hits such as The Hobbit and Game of Thrones. Its production values are also impressive. The music is suitably accomplished and eerie, the camerawork intense and claustrophobic, and the story well structured and intriguing. Overall, it has the appearance of a professional TV programme.
This is especially important as most of your time spent with The Bunker will be watching its cut scenes rather than playing it. Many of these scenes are flashback sequences that show what life was like in the bunker when John was a child. These are well interspersed into the narrative to keep players guessing as to what caused the rest of the bunker's residents to disappear, as well as explaining John's current fragile state of mind.
When you are given control, the gameplay largely consists of dragging a cursor across the screen and choosing to investigate a handful of objects such as documents, audio recordings and computers. You can also move John around by selecting doors or icons on the ground. While you're ostensibly free to choose where to go, you'll find that a lot of areas are cordoned off until the story progresses, making it a very linear experience. This isn't really a negative, however, rather a necessity for telling a tight and compelling story.
Some of the cut scenes are also punctuated with quick-time events that require rapid button-mashing or fast reflexes. Failing these can affect how a scene plays out, but this has no actual effect on the storyline. Other times, they will result in fail states which mean that you have to watch the preceding cut scene again before reattempting them. This can be rather annoying as these scenes can't be skipped. You wouldn't want to on your first playthrough, of course, as they're integral to the story. But if you're playing again for collectibles or simply having to replay a section because you messed up a quick-time event, watching the same video play out over and over can be very tedious. I would also recommend backing up your save to a USB stick, as at one point, the game crashed and corrupted my save data meaning I had to start again from the beginning.
Save-corruption issues aside, one playthrough of The Bunker will last about three hours or so. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, it does feel a bit too short and more like an episode of a series rather than a standalone game. There are a couple of puzzles to figure out that extend the experience a little, though only one caused me any kind of trouble and that was because the graphical hint it gives you to work with is very unclear. You'll know it when you get there.
The Bunker's professional production and compellingly told story make it an extremely engaging experience despite its low level of player interaction. It's a shame that it only lasts three hours. Even so, it's a unique and enjoyable addition to the PS4's library. Hopefully, it opens the way for more similar (yet longer) games in the future.
- + Compelling story, setting and characters
- + Excellent acting
- + Not much else like it on console
- - Can't skip cut scenes, even on repeat playthroughs
- - Rather short
- - Can potentially corrupt your save file