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Monday, 9 April 2018

Review: The Bunker

Review:The Bunker

After the bombs drop, Infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.

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The Bunker
Splendy Games | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 9th April 2018

Developers Commentary by: Allan Plenderleith - Splendy Games

* Review Code Provided by: Wales Interactive *

Nintendo Play is joined by Allan Plenderleith , Creative Director at Splendy Games, for the included Developers Commentary.

A thriller comprised entirely of video footage and set within a fallout shelter in the heart of the English Countryside, for Nintendo Switch, Why not!? The Bunker by Splendy Games is releasing today on the Nintendo eShop for £9.99. Anyone over a certain age may be weary, but has this genre finally changed for the better?

It’s been a long time since the industry dabbled in FMV games. Full Motion Video titles briefly became the buzz word in the early to mid 90’s and infamous titles such as Night Trap, Phantasmagoria and Gabriel Knight 2 are still discussed to this day... though sadly not usually for their quality. With gaming at the time beginning to shift towards larger capacity CD media and with most home Computers having a drive as standard, many felt that interactive movies were soon to be the way of the future, putting the player in control of the outcome their favorite films. Sadly due to highly-compressed low-quality video, hammy acting and sky-high production costs of the few titles that were actually made, the genre faded out almost as quickly as it appeared. Recently, however, gaming has seen a slow resurgence of the medium, looking to rectify some of the shortfalls of those that came before. The Bunker is Splendy Games’ rather ambitious attempt at pushing genre back into the spotlight.

Developers Commentary
Allan : My first game was an iOS title called The Hunting, a first person zombie horror shot on an iPhone, all live action. The term FMV never entered my head - I just wanted to see if doing interactive movie was possible. The Bunker is the next development of this idea with a bigger budget and hopefully much higher production values and top acting talent. We want people to feel like they’re going on a journey with John, to experience the loneliness and isolation, to feel that dread and despair when you’re alone and helpless. The emotional power of good acting is really why we like using live action - John goes through a heartbreaking emotional journey and we needed someone with amazing acting talent to pull it off. Adam Brown and Sarah Greene both did amazing jobs.

The Bunker Screenshot 1

The Bunker tells the story of John. Born and raised in a fallout shelter after a nuclear attack forced its occupants to seal it, planned to be kept closed for decades. Now a grown man and left with only his mother for company, John must maintain his sanity and come to terms with the reason why he is one of the last people left in the bunker.

While not feeling like a blockbuster movie in its plot and scale, The Bunker contains production values similar to that of a high-quality BBC Drama, which is to say, it looks and feels extremely well produced. The acting is emotive and believable and the music and sound effects are on point, creating the exact atmosphere that Splendy Games are clearly trying to convey. With an all-star line-up in its leading characters, most notably Adam Brown (Ori the Dwarf - The Hobbit Trilogy) and Sarah Greene (Hecate Poole – Penny Dreadful), no expense was spared in ensuring that the title did not fall prey to the lackluster acting stigma that plagued initial wave of FMV titles.

Developers Commentary
Allan: Hiring good actors is the most important thing in any film production. If they’re good they’ll bring things to the table you never imagined when writing the script. I spotted Adam Brown in the DVD extras of The Hobbit and thought he was perfect for John - vulnerable and sensitive - he’s a very talented physical actor which was essential as John does not have much dialogue. I was searching for an actor to play Margaret when I stumbled upon Sarah Greene who had previously been a voice actor on The Witcher 3. It was only when I met her that I found out she was a good friend of Adam’s!

Actual gameplay is kept to a minimum with some simple interactions and quick-time-events thrown in keep the attention focussed on the story being told. The bulk of the work for the player is the selection of which door to open or hallway to walk John down next, and in these instances the video footage is creatively looped to give the player all time they need to decide where to go next.

The Bunker Screenshot 2

The game's story contains two different distinct endings though unfortunately very little can be done during the course of the game to prevent you from being able to select either as the games concluding scene. There is also no need to replay the entire game for the opportunity to view the alternate as there is nothing stopping you from reloading your previous save after your initial completion, taking you right back to the end of the game and allowing you to choose to finish with the secondary clip instead. The game does feature and range of collectables scattered throughout the story and is something for those eagled eyed completionists to track down, though with nothing in the form of a reward the whole process seems fairly pointless, with the constant thorough scanning of each scene detracting from the engaging storyline and taking away from whole experience somewhat. Understandably the length of the title is fairly short, around the 1.5 – 2 hour mark, but much like a movie the game is able to successfully tell the story, giving the characters involved a fleshed out story and contains a solid beginning, middle and end

Developers Commentary
Allan: The Bunker is all about exploration and a story unfolding as opposed to choice based narrative. We were pushing the boundaries as to what has been achieved before in interactive film so had to keep interactivity and gameplay simple and clean (our next title is pushing things much further). I felt a choice was important at the very end because the character John is torn - part of him wants to leave the bunker but he is terrified of what is outside; the other part of him doesn’t feel he deserves to leave after he discovered the truth of what happened. Both choices are valid, it’s up to the player to decide, does John deserve freedom?

There is both touch-screen and controller support in the Bunker with the former having a distinct advantage over using a controller. The main issue lies with the game's crosshair; with no way to disable when playing with a controller, it sits on screen the entire time, getting in the way of the video playing behind it and generally spoiling the view. This crosshair also has uncomfortable sensitivity when selecting icons on or QTE’s on the screen, turning what should be an organic sequence of selections into a bit of a clunky mess. With crisp looking visuals and an overall much more enjoyable experience, playing in Handheld Mode is definitely recommended if possible.

Developers Commentary
Allan: We are hoping to improve some of the gameplay having heard the feedback from reviewers and gamers in the forthcoming weeks.

The Bunker Screenshot 3

While a solid title, unfortunately there is simply not enough interaction for the player to feel included in the events taking place on the screen, with the lack of choice casting the player into the role of spectator, rather than actually feeling like they are sharing in John’s experience within the bunker. That isn’t to say that the title is without merit however; with a brilliant storyline, fantastic acting and a solid musical score, if you’re after something a bit different or enjoy your games shorter and a bit more “hands off”, The Bunker is definitely for you.

Many thanks to Allan for his discussion during this review.


+ Well suited for touch screen play.
+ Interesting story.
+ High production values with solid acting.

- Annoying crosshair when using controller.
- Short title with limited replayability.

Verdict: Above Average – Worth a Try

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