Has Anybody Seen My Pip-Boy?
Christmas of 1992. That was the day I was gifted Sega’s new, innovative add-on for the Sega Genesis, the Sega CD. That was the day that I saw the future of video games. My family, friends, and even my pets were taken aback by what this new upgrade could do. We were WATCHING our video games thanks to full motion video! We were hearing actual, REAL rock music while crackin’ skulls as Spiderman! How could it get any better?
As most gamers know, years went by and sadly the art of the full motion video game fizzled out. I was kinda bummed out by this tragic turn of events. Sure, these games were full of B movie actors delivering some of the worst dialogue ever put to paper, but they were full of charm! I personally haven’t touched an FMV game since 1993’s Academy Award Winning (I kid) Prize Fighter. That’s a whole 25 years ago!
War Never Changes
So, here we are in 2018, and I catch wind of an FMV game called The Bunker that is making its way to the Nintendo Switch. At first, I thought maybe this was a re-release of an old Sega CD game. After a quick search, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is a fairly new release that dropped on current-gen consoles in 2016. How have I not heard of this?
Once I received my review code, I downloaded the game to my console immediately. I couldn’t wait to bask in the glory of a poorly written story, horrible acting, and cheaply made set pieces. Do I have to remind you that it’s been 25 long years?! Well, I’ve just completed The Bunker, and I’m shocked to say that I didn’t get any of the cheap thrills I was expecting. I’m actually kinda confused. This isn’t the FMV quality that I’m used to! The acting in The Bunker is superb! Hell, even the set pieces are amazing! What the hell is going on here!
Millions of Peaches
I don’t want to delve into The Bunker’s story too deeply because I don’t want to give anything away. This is an interactive movie mind you, so bear with me. The Bunker is about a man named John, who was born and has lived the whole 30 years of his existence in a fallout shelter. The land above him (as far as we know) has been completely destroyed by nuclear war. The player follows John as he completes his daily to-do list, which consists of mundane tasks such as taking his medication, checking the radio for a signal, and monitoring the bunker for radiation.
As the days go by and John repeats the same tasks, you begin to get a feel of the bunker life. Before you know it, you’ll start to question why John is living in this bunker by himself. Eventually, something out of the ordinary happens and John’s daily routine gets altered, causing him to panic. Shortly after that, a steady drip of information begins to leak, and through a series of flashbacks and narration, you’ll slowly understand what is going on. Just when you think you figured out the what is happening, a bit of new information gets uncovered. This process repeats a few times throughout the story, so don’t get comfy. OK, that’s all I’m going to say as I don’t want to get in trouble. Just take my advice. If you enjoy psychological horror, it’s worth your time.
The Air is so Stale
So, how is The Bunker a game? Well, it’s not. During any given scene the player is given a few on-screen visual indicators of what they can interact with. Click on the little footsteps and get treated to a video clip of John walking to another room. Click on a desk drawer and a video clip of John opening said drawer will follow. As the player picks and chooses what they want to interact with, small tidbits of the story can be observed and pieced together. Again, this is done mostly through flashbacks. Eventually, The Bunker does turn into a game. Towards the midpoint of the story, some tasks will need to be done in a certain order. These can be considered puzzles in the sense, but they are very basic and shouldn’t be too tough for any gamer to figure out.
If by chance the player does make a wrong choice during gameplay, they’ll usually be put right back to the beginning of the scene. “Usually” being the key word here. I had a sequence where I purposely made a bad decision and was brought back to a point in the story that was further than I would have liked. This would have been fine, but The Bunker’s scenes cannot be skipped. This resulted in me watching the same exact five minutes of an uneventful scene that I just experienced. Again, it’s really hard to make a bad decision in this game, so I don’t see many players running into this problem.
The majority of The Bunker is an enjoyable experience, but some of the clips featuring John doing basic functions can be dreadful to watch. The actor who portrays him (Adam Brown) is great, but seeing him repeatedly walk down the same hallway or open the same drawer can get boring, especially since he does everything extremely slowly. But once the story opens up Brown’s acting chops come to the forefront. I could almost feel John’s pain during one of the Bunker’s more gruesome scenes (again, not giving anything away).
Don’t Open that Door!
Even though the story is great, The Bunker does come with some problems. The main issue is that there aren’t enough props for John to interact with. Some scenes are just barren and offer very little to look at. It would have been nice to get more insight to what happened both down in the bunker and up above it by reading some notes or memos that just so happen to be laying around, but there’s very little of that. There are little wooden figures from John’s childhood scattered throughout the bunker that the player can search out and collect, but they don’t add to the story. They seem to just be a tacked on gimmick to force the player to spend a little more time admiring the set.
The Switch version of The Bunker does come with a few enhancements. Thanks to the Switch’s touch screen the player can play the whole game without a controller. Of course, playing with the original cursor can be done as well. There’s no need to switch between these two play methods as they both work simultaneously. Additionally, the Switch version is a lot cheaper ($12.99) than its PS4 and XBox One counterparts ($19.99).
If you go into The Bunker expecting a cheesy FMV B movie script with horrible acting, you’re going to be disappointed. The story, the actors, and the set pieces are nothing short of amazing. It’s a shame that there’s not much for the player to do though. The Bunker is a great two-hour movie, but an average FMV video game.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac ; Publisher: Wales Interactive Ltd. ; Developer: Splendy Games/Wales Interactive, LLC ; Players: 1 ; Released: April 9th, 2018; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of The Bunker provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.