My schedule is jam packed, lately. Podcasting, playing video games, cooking barely edible meals for the children, there’s always something to do. Coupled with my wife’s busy days of nursing and doing something worthwhile with her life, we don’t get to spend as much couple time together as we might like. When we do get an hour or so to ourselves, there are two things that we tend to do. One is snuggling up on the sofa to watch a good horror film and the other is getting in some gaming time.
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to review The Bunker, the new live-action horror title from Wales Interactive. After watching the trailer, I realised that this could be an opportunity to indulge both my love of gaming and my fascination with freaky films and I asked my wife if she would like to join me. A date was set for that evening and we were all set to have our spines tingled.
The Bunker is set in an underground… well, bunker. Opening in 1986, we are introduced to our protagonist, John, as he is born amidst heavy explosions and the occasional fall of plaster dust shaken from the ceiling. Thirty years later, only John and his mother remain in the bunker and she is dying. With her last breath, she urges him to stick to the routine, making him repeat it to her before reading her one last story from her favourite book, which is:
A) Treasure Island
B) The Bible
C) The Bunker Instruction Manual
This is where it begins. The Bunker is essentially a live-action point and click game. The camera pans to a shot of the books on the side table and once you pick one, John reaches out and picks up the book which you have chosen and starts to read.
It’s a fantastic concept, blending the interactivity of a video game with the visuals of cinema. It’s not a new idea, of course, as live-action games have popped up from time to time over the years but have never really gained any ground. There have been some good attempts, of course. I particularly remember spending hours happily playing through Star Trek: Borg and Star Trek: Klingon, interactive movies featuring characters from the Next Generation era television series. Personal favourites, but they had their issues. Sadly, the concept has never realized it’s full potential and I couldn’t help but wonder, would The Bunker be the first to do so?
Well, it’s certainly an earnest attempt at reviving the concept but sadly, the whole experience is a little dry. It’s not without it’s charms for sure and part of me wants to urge everyone to try it simply because it’s such a fantastic idea which is trying so hard to bring something new to the table. A larger part of me, however, just doesn’t really get it and it wasn’t just me who felt that way. Both my wife and I agreed that The Bunker left us with a particular set of emotions. Namely, mild unease and slight disappointment. The story is genuinely unsettling and watching someone’s life fall apart and having a degree of control over it is an odd feeling. Sadly, there’s not enough there to overwhelm the feeling that there’s just not enough going on.
The story unfolds very slowly and is constantly halted by what feel like arbitrary button presses. There’s a tiny amount of autonomy allowed as you explore extra rooms, but the most you’ll find is one of the wooden doll collectibles strewn throughout the bunker and what’s more likely is turning up a maintenance report or diary entry which, while impressive in their attention to detail, don’t really drop the jaw.
Ultimately, The Bunker isn’t for me. It was a really clever idea and if this was a movie review i’d be singing it’s praises for telling a decent tale, but as a game it lacks something. There were one or two interesting moments, but after much discussion, my wife and I decided that next time we’ll either watch a film OR play a game, not play something which suffers from being too much of the former, without enough of the latter.
SCORE: If 10 rads are a lethal dose of fun, this is around a 5.