There were three things I was scared of growing up in the 1980s. The first were stonewashed jeans that for some reason made me feel sick whenever I set eyes on a pair. The second was Goths who would always be hanging around my local graveyard being moody and bumming cigarettes. And, of course, the third thing was thermal global nuclear war. Now The Bunker, which is set in 1986, has no stonewashed jeans or Goths. But it does unfortunately have a lot of thermal nuclear war. Or does it?
The Bunker is an old fashioned game with new tech, with HD filmed drama and good actors. In the 90s there was a fashion for CD ROM full motion video games such as, Night Trap or Wing Commander. How these games work is that you use pre-recorded footage with multiple outcomes. Then in game you choose a dialogue tree, or go through a certain door to decide the next course of action. The Bunker is an updated version of those types of games. So have things moved on from those hallowed days in the 90s?
Well it’s a yes and a no, I’m afraid.
Let’s talk about the story first, which is the key to the game and decides whether it lives or dies. Britain has been attacked by nuclear weapons. You play as a newborn baby called John who is safe deep underground in a nuclear bunker with his mother and other military personnel. We cut to thirty years later where you and your dying mother are the only two people left in the bunker. When she dies you have to keep the daily routine going; checking for radiation, food rationing and trying to keep alive. When the facility starts to break down and John remembers the dark truths about why he is the only one left alive, things start to unravel and you are left with some very hard choices. The story is a good one created by the Wales Interactive developers. Part psychological horror, and part apocalyptic drama, it tells an interesting tale with some nice surprises on your underground journey.
The gameplay part of The Bunker is less inspiring than the story and it basically comes down to a very limited number of choices. The main part of it is point and click, and then there is a “Press the button quickly” quick time event mode. You can choose where to go and what to do in a very limited manner, but after a while it can start to become a bit weary. The response time from pressing the button on your controller to the next bit of film is very good, with only the slightest hint of a delay. One of the hardest and annoying sequences is when you fail in certain tasks and die. This forces you to have to replay the whole pre-film sequence before hand; something that can take up to five minutes. I was pulling my hair out towards the end and nearly gave up.
When you’ve played through everything that The Bunker initially brings, there are some extra things to check out, including a different ending, some collectable toys and interesting documents to find. They all add to the story and are worth taking time to find.
The acting, direction and design of the filming are obviously a big part of The Bunker. In the 90’s, filming could be somewhat terrible, you could even sometimes see the scenery wobble. The updated 2016 live-action version found here thankfully doesn’t do that, and it doesn’t disappoint with some pretty smart direction and camera work. All filmed in glorious HD at a decommissioned fallout bunker in the UK, the colour palette, props and fixtures are all nicely of the period. A big mention goes to the special gore effects department, with a sequence that will make you wince every time you look at a bone.
The acting is of a good standard with a fine solo performance from Adam Brown (The Hobbit) who plays the main character of John as a man/child lost in a world alone. Then there is Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful) who is playing his mother in mostly flashback form. Again though, a very good performance is delivered. The other actors do a good job as well, even though one of them delivers a sort of ‘scare of the week’ baddie role that we’ve all seen a few times before. Generally the script is good and delivered well by all. Adam Brown, playing John, does a great job of waiting, while you make your decision about what to do next, keeping the tension alive. The sound score and effects are very good, and really play with the claustrophobic atmosphere of The Bunker.
Overall this is a game that will give you an experience that will hopefully make you want to play more live action game experiences. This one is about two hours long, which maybe is a bit pricey for £15.99, but tells a good story with a nice twist and some nice acting. The gameplay elements are interesting to start with, using some exciting moments in the middle, but by end of the two hours it starts to drag quite badly.
The Bunker brought back my fears of nuclear war again. I just hope their next game isn’t about stonewashed jeans.