Alone in the dark.
What would you do if all of a sudden your safe, comfortable daily routine is suddenly torn apart? How would you cope?
These are the questions posed to lone survivor John (played by Adam Brown, who most famously portrayed Ori in The Hobbit trilogy), the protagonist of Splendy Games’ The Bunker. He has been living out his life for the best part of 30 years in an underground bunker in Britain following a nuclear war. Very Fallout, so far. At the start of the game, John’s mother (Sarah Greene) dies in bed with her son at her side, and John suddenly finds himself utterly alone. Following a daily set of guidelines, he takes his pills, checks for radiation, eats rationed food, searches for radio signals and reads his favourite books at his dead mother’s bedside.
On a day beginning like every other, John’s routine is wrenched from him when an alarm rings through the bunker, signaling a severe radiation leak. From here, the horror escalates to almost unbearable levels. The thing is though, there are no monsters or evil beings to speak of. In fact, there’s not a shred of the supernatural to be found anywhere in The Bunker. The horror contained is very real and very personal, such as what you might do if you’re faced with a seemingly impossible choice, or if you happen to injure yourself with no one around to help.
Along with his struggle in the ‘present’ day, John’s childhood is explored through various flashbacks in the game. It’s here that we meet the other inhabitants of the bunker, such as the Commissioner – played with ferocious intensity by Grahame Fox – and explore the reasoning behind the bunker’s existence, along with the deaths of most of its inhabitants. Mainly, it’s a detailed look into John’s relationship with his mother and their role during the bunker’s downfall. Without going into too much detail, it’s the centrepiece of the game’s wonderful twist ending.
The Bunker is an interactive FMV game, meaning everything you see is filmed and acted out by real people – there’s not a polygon in sight. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The events play out with searing realism, and I have to say that Adam Brown’s acting is absolutely brilliant. Even as a man in his 30s, he displays an almost child-like innocence, and this is undoubtedly a result of his confinement to the bunker with no knowledge of the outside world. I found myself really rooting for him throughout the entire game. The true star of the show, however, is the bunker itself. Filmed at a real decommissioned nuclear bunker, it really helps to bring the game to life with retro monitors, thick metallic doors and terrifying radiation suits.
On the other hand, as a game, The Bunker suffers from a severe lack of interactivity. Understandably, you can’t directly control John – you simply move an on-screen cursor or use the Switch’s touch screen to click on points of interest in the environment. Occasionally you need to tap rapidly during moments of tension, but that’s about it. Personally, I wasn’t too fussed as I was really invested in the story, but I imagine a lot of folks will find the lack of gameplay a tough pill to swallow.
The Bunker is a genuinely scary insight into loneliness and isolation. The setting and cast of characters really help bring its unsettling story to life, but the minimal interaction may put off a few people. I do wonder if it would’ve been more successful as a movie.