17th Apr2018

‘The Bunker’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

Bunker_Screenshot_06

After spotting Jeff Minter in Port Talbot last week, I’ve thinking about the Welsh video game industry as I can’t recall the last time that I played a game set in Wales or made by a Welsh Developer, so it was quite coincidental that this week I was sent The Bunker to review, a game made by a company based in Bridgend called Wales Interactive. It was also a nice surprise to find out it’s a FMV (Full-Motion Video) game – a genre that’s quite difficult to get right – and while there are some pitfalls that come with the territory, The Bunker is a well-made and enjoyable narrative-driven tale definitely closer to the 7th Guests and Phantasmagorias of the genre than Tender Loving Care (wow, that was bad).

The Bunker tells the story of a man called John who has spent his entire life in the titular bunker following an undisclosed catastrophe above ground. In the game’s introductory sequence, we can see that there was initially quite a bustling underground community but in the present day, John is conspicuously alone, apart from the mummified corpse of his mother that he regularly reads to, naturally. His life consists of a strict daily routine drilled into him from childhood:

  • Take medication
  • Check radiation levels
  • Run computer checks
  • Eat
  • Read
  • Sleep
  • Repeat

Naturally, this pattern gets interrupted leading up to the events in the game.

As an FMV game largely driven by one character it could very easily come across as sparse, luckily the actor portraying John (Adam brown) gives a strong performance, capturing the emotionally stunted growth of John mostly wordlessly through gesture and I did find myself emotionally invested in what was happening to the poor guy. The sound track to the game is airy, ambient synth which drifts quietly in the background and the viewpoints we get through security cameras and close-ups of his frightened face, eyes darting wildly as he wanders through the claustrophobic facility works to the games advantage and the story unfolds at a solid pace throughout.

Bunker_Screenshot_05

The main issue with the game is the lack of interactivity, something that dogs the genre as a whole. Beyond clicking on various hotspots and the occasional QTE (Quick-time Event), there isn’t much to do except follow the story. There is also no real replayability once the game has been completed, which takes around three hours (although there are collectibles scattered around, they make no difference to the story) and so whether you enjoy The Bunker or not will depend heavily on your willingness to engage in the story and accept that game play is taking a serious backseat . I personally had no issues with this as when I play for example, Telltale games, I find myself unable to fully immerse myself because I’m constantly waiting for the inevitable, tedious QTEs to start popping up, distracting me from following the narrative. This isn’t really an issue in The Bunker as it’s much slower-paced and more muted in delivery.

I found The Bunker to be an enjoyable, albeit brief experience that, although suffering from the usual FMV issues such as minimalist game play involvement and lack of replay value, the timid, lonely and well-portrayed main character combined with the unfolding history of what happened to the population of The Bunker, (whilst not earth-shattering in its revelations) was more than enough to hold my interest until the credits rolled. I definitely feel that there’s space for a sequel set in the same world and for FMV games in general.

Right, I’m off to eat tins of peaches whilst sitting on the toilet… The Bunker is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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