I’ve been a huge fan of anything to do with the 1980s for as long as I can remember. Give me a denim boiler suit, white heels and neon-pink lipstick, and you’ll find me on a dancefloor somewhere singing along to the likes of Chaka Khan and Spandau Ballet (badly).
My love for the decade also extends to video games, and a release set in the 80s or with artwork inspired by it is bound to catch my eye. Take 198X for example. I backed its Kickstarter campaign in June 2018 after seeing the artwork alone, despite the promotional trailer not giving much away about the game actually involved. I wasn’t disappointed though; we played it on day nine of our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 and liked the way that several different genres came together in one story.
After making pledges to the campaigns for Gamdec and Chinatown Detective Agency last month, I came across another on the crowdfunding platform last week – one which this time appealed to my obsession with the decade rather than detective games. Commander ’85 by The Moonwalls is described as ‘a sci-fi thriller about a seemingly ordinary birthday present that changes the lives of the main characters forever’. It sounds like the set-up for a great 80s movie and so I happily became a backer for the project.
The story starts out well when you’re given a super modern computer with real artificial intelligence (AI) for your birthday on 13 May 1985, but things take a turn for the worse when military experiments get out of control and the world faces the threat of nuclear war. Together with a group of good friends and crazy scientist, you’ll have to try and end the Cold War, discover the secret of the Commander computers, and find out the mysterious truth behind the Roswell Incident.
Like 198X, it’s hard to figure out exactly what to expect from Commander ’85 from the limited information provided through the Kickstarter campaign and Steam page. What I can tell you though is that I’m getting vibes of WarGames from the promotional video (and who doesn’t like a young Matthew Broderick?). I’ve mentioned before that my favourite narratives are usually those grounded in reality but where something is a little ‘off’, and this seems like one which is going to hit that spot.
Although gameplay details are light, we’re told that players will get to decide the fate of the world using an advanced system of interaction with the computer’s AI. You’ll have to build its trust and friendliness towards you, listen to its sarcastic comments and even watch as it quarrels with your parents. Randomly-generated plot points make for a slightly different experience for each player and you’ll reach one of three different endings according to the choices you make.
Several short gameplay videos are already available on YouTube as a demo is provided with the ‘White Hat’ backer tier. It starts with a section almost like Gone Home where you’re able to explore your bedroom and look at objects, before moving onto a tutorial where your computer guides you through hacking into your school’s database to update your attendance record. While downloading a file however, a virus is installed on your machine and it begins to attempt to access the ballistic missile systems of the United States and USSR.
The AI then tells you that the virus is modifying its files and you should expect some unexpected effects when launching programs. It can also take advantage of any free threads on your computer and use them to speed up the hacking process, so it’s time to keep your machine busy by playing video games. But soon your eyes grow fuzzy from tiredness and you have to head to bed… before being abruptly woken up by strange noises and an incredibly bright light in the night sky. It’s here that the demo ends.
The Kickstarter page mentions that you’ll need to complete the chores given to you by your parents so you don’t get grounded and stopped from playing, and these optional activities help vary the gameplay each time. It’s safe to guess that if you don’t do these tasks, they’ll prevent you from getting back to your Commander ’85 and this will give the virus an opportunity to gain access to those missiles far quicker. Who knew that playing video games was going to prove important when trying to save the world?
The campaign for Commander ’85 is running until 09 May 2020 and, at the time of writing, it has already secured almost 70% of its £4,545 target. Head over to the Kickstarter project for further details and give The Moonwalls a like on Facebook to stay up-to-date on their progress.