Life in lockdown has left many of us with additional time to pursue new careers and hobbies, along with a curiosity about how things will be different in the future. Maybe this explains the recent increase in new crowdfunding projects and video games with a dystopian setting.
I’ve mentioned before that the quality of campaigns appearing on Kickstarter has decreased in recent years, but things are really starting to pick up and I’ve made pledges to four projects since the beginning of March. The first was Calling Card, a murder-mystery-in-a-box by the creators of Hack Forward. Then there was choose-your-own-adventure puzzle book The Paper Labyrinth, followed by a full-motion video (FMV) horror game called GHOSTS which can only be played at 22:00 in your local time.
The latest campaign I’ve become a backer for is Invasive Recall by Springbeam Studio. The Kickstarter page advises that this is a point-and-click inspired by ‘classic noir and cyberpunk movies’, so it follows in the footsteps of other recent releases which have gone for a dark, futuristic narrative influenced by technology. Its look and atmosphere remind me of Lacuna, an upcoming title I tried the demo for during February’s Steam Game Festival and then wishlisted immediately.
The story take place in 2086, when advances in neurological science and artificial intelligence (AI) mean it’s possible to scan and interpret the thoughts of the human mind. The procedure is dubbed ‘Invasive Recall’ and legislators have permitted law enforcement to use it on recently-deceased victims of crime. By retrieving their last memories, detectives can potentially find details vital to a case and even find the identity of the perpetrator right at the crime-scene.
Recall detectives John Landon and Rachel Hapley only know each other by reputation. The former is an investigator for the city police who’s looking into the murder of prominent scientists, while the latter works for a tech-savvy, well-funded private organisation and is following up on a series of mysterious disappearances. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross and they’ll soon face a far more sinister truth than the everyday corruption of the city.
As to be expected from a point-and-click, gameplay is primarily presented in the form of conversations and puzzles but there are two main mechanics worth highlighting here. The first is Invasive Recall itself: you can use your Recall instrument to transfer the memories of the dead and play through their last moments alive, in a bid to uncover clues in the past which will help you solve challenges in the present. The promotional trailer hints at what this will be like after the death of a genetic scientist.
The second is less appealing for me personally: character-switching. Many adventure gamers enjoy the added insight that shifting between protagonists provides but I usually don’t like the mechanic because I find it breaks my immersion in the story. In Invasive Recall, players can switch between Rachel and Landon at will so they’ll have ‘an alternative approach if they get stuck’ and there will be certain puzzles where their collaboration is the only way forward.
I must admit, the character-switching initially put me off when the Kickstarter page was first published – but there was something about the campaign which drew me in after watching the trailer again the following week. Springbeam Studio have stated: “We’re not aiming to reinvent the wheel. We just want to take what was good of the classic games like Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Broken Sword, and make a traditional and well-crafted game.”
This appeals to me greatly. I’ve been finding myself drawn to older adventures during the lockdown, probably because the nostalgia provides a small degree of comfort and escapism, and a pixelated point-and-click featuring a verb interface is just what I need right now. Sure, it’s interesting when a release comes along that’s innovative and does something we’ve never seen before; but a game which doesn’t change the formula can be just as worth playing if contains an interesting storyline and well-written characters.
The team go on to say: “Our goal is to make the puzzles feel like a natural part of the world of the game, and never feel like something shoehorned in for the sake of adding friction.” And speaking of the world, several locations are featured on the Kickstarter page. Players are invited to find out what’s stirring beneath the surface of the city: why are a handful of prominent scientists turning up dead, and why are ordinary people vanishing into thin air never to be seen again?
Just over 25% has been pledged by 342 backers towards the £29,099 target at the time of writing and the project is on track to reach this by Thursday, 06 May 2021. There’s a while to wait for the game itself though as it isn’t due to be released until the second half of 2022 but if you’re eager to get your hands on it, you can make a pledge of £44 or more for early access to the demo builds. Follow Springbeam Studio on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.