60 Seconds! is an interesting beast. What’s important isn’t really the story or gameplay, but how those things show themselves. Little interactions of gameplay and narrative are what make this game fascinating.
Please be aware though that there will be minor spoilers ahead and this game is best played without any prior knowledge. If you have interest in it, I wouldn’t read this just yet. If you like the idea of the game based on what you know, do yourself a favour and try it out. If you don’t know yet or are just scrolling through reviews while you wait for the release, this should have you covered.
60 Seconds! is an experience that covers literal day-to-day affairs as you make decisions and cower in fear as those decisions bite you in your metaphorical (and sometimes literal) butt. It starts out giving you a few seconds to survey the area then 60 more to grab water, soup, guns… and your family. You make a mental checklist and grab as much of the wide array of items lying around your house that you can. If you don’t drop them off and get to the shelter in time, Ted (the head of the household) cowers on the floor and gets pulverized by an atomic bomb. If you do make it, the real game starts.
The basic concept of the game is that you, and whatever family members you grab, are sitting in a nuclear bunker. After taking stock of your items, you are initially told how your family is doing in regard to food, water, fatigue and mental state. You then decide to provide rations based on those feelings. Generally, every third day each member must drink and every sixth they must eat. It then gives you the option to form expeditions. After all of this, you make decisions based on what’s going on around you, such as a leaky pipe or a bang on your shelter. They are usually asked in the form of a yes or no question, and it is left to you to decide what action to take, often not discovering the long term effects of that decision for days or weeks ahead. But this is where the game shines. Playing too passively often ends up with your characters slowly dying or going insane, whereas taking part in all the game offers ends in fascinating and often crazy situations. It is fundamentally a game that naturally produces those water-cooler conversations games are incredible for. “What happened next? I didn’t even know you could do that”. Questions like that are rife in 60 Seconds!.
To best illustrate this, I’ll take you through a single playthrough of mine, one that took place over the span of about 15 minutes.
Everything went well initially, as I had an abundance of water and food but somewhat limited items – a gas mask, a survival book, a map and a medkit. On the 7th day, two men dressed for a medieval fair came strolling along; one hopping, the other tapping rocks together to mimic a horse. They were lost, but luckily we had a map. They gave a harmonica as thanks and made their merry way to Camelot, presumably. A week of killing roaches, opening containers and finding briefcases ensued before Ted decided to go scavenging in a store, Super-Duper Mart style. A few more weeks of slow deterioration then took place before problems began to start. Little Timmy (the youngest child) was sent scavenging, rifle in hand. The bunker’s ventilation system decided to give up so Ted attempted to fix it. On the morning of the 64th day, Timmy was captured by bandits and Ted caught a dangerous disease while attempting to fix the ventilation. We immediately sent out the only remaining child, Mary Jane, to fetch a medkit. On the morning of the 70th day, Mary Jane (the daughter) was killed, Ted succumbed to disease and Dolores, the only remaining family member, went insane.
Honestly, by this point I just said yes to everything offered in 60 Seconds!. And I’m glad I did. Crazy old Dolores went on a coffee run before talking to a trader; he offered one mysterious bag in return for one soup. How could I say no? It contained a small orange cat. The next day, another showed up. Then another. By day 82 Dolores was a full-fledged crazy cat lady. On day 84, a single tap came from the bunker. Of course, Dolores decided to investigate. This is when a fleet of cats effectively locked her out, presumably to eat all her food and push all her items off the tables. “Alright, we’ll call it a draw”.
This is where 60 Seconds! works at its finest – when it offers snippets of stories for you to fill in yourself. It’s loaded with references and some interesting storytelling but most of it will go unnoticed in your first handful of playthroughs. It’s the type of game in which you’ll find yourself picking crazy options just to see where it goes. Unfortunately one of its biggest issues is the amount of content outside of events. Whilst 60 Seconds! is very interesting in your first few runs, the lack of content becomes very obvious. Most of the choices in the game amount to testing out combinations of pre-existing options as opposed to entirely new ones, and while there are snippets of references and ideas throughout, the basic run is mostly similar.
Furthermore, its art and music design is often mismatched in areas. The stylized art style works very well in promotional material and loading screens but not so much in the initial gameplay segment. The entire starting gameplay doesn’t work as well as the other side of the game. The controls are clunky and messy, and often at times items get stuck in the way of doorways, effectively trapping you. Its base idea isn’t bad but it’s implemented poorly. The characters slide awkwardly, it’s often hard to grab items and when you do it takes far more time than needed. In fact, every small thing hinders you.
Adding to this, its art in the third dimension (scavenging gameplay segments will take place away from the 2D landscapes) comes off looking like a TV tie-in game from ten years ago. Of course, this may work for some, but it doesn’t for me. My main issue is it feels tonally different from the rest of the game. The bunker art and gameplay visuals don’t feel similar enough. And whilst it is interesting the first time you scavenge, it quickly gets old. Luckily, there is a mode entirely skipping this which is a nice touch – the survival mode forgoes the need to scavenge and gives you randomly assigned items instead.
60 Seconds! also offers a challenge mode based on the initial scavenge segment. In this you have to complete a challenge such as retrieving ten axes for a Viking helmet or lots of guns for a Yankee hat. Its tongue in cheek style of humor shines here but unfortunately the gameplay is ultimately weak and often comes across as frustrating.
Here is where 60 Seconds! on Xbox One falls: it works best when played with very low effort, almost similar to that of a visual novel. The game can be played practically one-handed and the most fun can be had when digesting the weird stories that come from it. The gameplay is one of the weakest parts of the game and unfortunately this is what may put many people off before the game even gets going. In fact, I had the most fun when playing survival mode and skipping the scavenging elements entirely. Yes, 60 Seconds! features some great dark humour, interesting stories and fun references but its overall presentation and amount of content included lets it down, seeing things done and dusted rather quickly.