Invasive Recall: memories of the classic adventures

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.

Invasive Recall, video game, detective, office, elevators

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?

Invasive Recall, video game, detective, cars, car park

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.

Hitchhiker: a journey into the unknown

When sitting down to write a review, I usually begin by making a list of all the points I want to cover. They might be simple things such as the way the graphics reminded me of another release; or more complex subjects like story connections and meaning.

I’ve tried to do this with Hitchhiker several times now but it’s impossible. After completing Mad about Pandas’ latest release a couple days ago thanks to a review key from Plan of Attack, thoughts about how it made me feel and what I think it was trying to say are still swimming around in my head and they’re as hard to pin down as the narrative itself. It’s difficult to put into words but don’t take that as a bad thing: this has possibly been the most interesting gaming experience I’ve had in 2021 so far and I think it’s going to be with me for a while yet.

Hitchhiker is one of those titles where it’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling what makes it special. I tend to roll my eyes when I see that sentiment expressed in reviews because it always comes across like a cop-out, but this is definitely a game which needs to be played to be understood. You step into the shoes of a young man who hitches a ride with a different character in five episodes, before things turn mysterious when you realise they all know you in some way. More about that later.

At first, the title seems like a hitchhiking simulator where you can’t do much outside of conversation except examine a few objects inside the car and look out of the window. There are a few puzzles which need to be solved to progress: for example, at one point you’ll be guessing the answer to riddles posed by the radio DJ and then later, rewiring a light to get out of a tricky situation. Although they aren’t overly challenging, they do provide a nice, occasional break from the story.

But the story is where the power of Hitchhiker lies. You’re a young man with no memory of who you are and where you’re going, and the only thing for you to do is hitch a ride to hopefully reach your unknown destination. The first person you meet is a raisin farmer called Vern who’s happy to chat to you about his life. Over the course of the next 40-minutes however, it becomes clear that not everything is as seems and you start asking yourself whether you can trust this man and his words.

Why do you feel as though you recognise each of the characters but don’t remember them? And how do they know so much about you and who you really are? The next rides are just as intriguing as the first with Vern and, although it’s difficult to say who my favourite driver was, I found myself drawn to Sayed due to the backstory hinted at in conversation. Each of these people are curious in their own way with individual personalities, beliefs and desires that they may use to influence you.

Hitchhiker, video game, car, ride, man, Vern

I didn’t get the impression that the options selected during discussions with the characters did much to change the following dialogue, because each response was vague enough to answer any of the questions asked. This fits in wonderfully with Hitchhiker’s atmosphere though. It’s as if you’re aware the drivers are pulling the strings during these rides and, although they appear amiable on the surface, you can tell there’s something each of them is trying to hide from you.

An interlude during each ride gives some insight into their backstories. These are depicted in totally different visual styles from the Firewatch-like graphics of the main game: for example, one is told in black-and-white hand-drawn pictures while another is communicated through old View-Master images. I found this switch jarring at first but, once I understood that these stories-within-a-story were told from the other characters’ perspective, the style was perfect.

It’s design choices like this which make Hitchhiker feel something like a hallucination. It’s almost as if the other characters have stepped into your dream during the main narrative and you’ve visited theirs for a short spell in return during the interludes mentioned above. Other visual components such as guiding fireflies, moving mustard bottles and even tumbleweed balls with staring eyes add to the impression that not everything the protagonist witnesses or is told is the truth.

In certain sections of the game, it’s obvious that certain assets have been reused: scenery repeats outside the car window and the drivers all have the same way of fidgeting and checking out their surroundings. I couldn’t tell whether this was due to budget constraints or intentional design – but I’m going to go with the latter regardless because it worked. It seems to replicate that feeling of dreaming and noticing objects or people you recognise in situations or places where they don’t belong.

I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to make of Hitchhiker immediately after completing it. Several possible explanations are given for the protagonist’s memory loss and potential destination but pulling the threads of truth out of the narrative is challenging, and you constantly change your mind about what you believe during your playthrough. No definitive conclusion is given at the end of the game and this isn’t usually something I enjoy; I’d rather have all the answers handed to me than an open-ended story.

But it’s now a few days later and I’ve changed my mind yet again. Although I still haven’t deciphered everything and some questions remain unanswered, I think I’ve figured out most of what has happened to the protagonist – at least my version of what has happened to them. Giving a firm conclusion to Mad About Panda’s project would have removed some of that surreal feeling, and it’s thanks to some superb writing and voice-acting that I’m still thinking about it a week later.

While Hitchhiker won’t be to everybody’s tastes thanks to the way it tells its story, it’s a game I’d definitely recommend to fans of releases such as Kentucky Route Zero and Virginia. It took me on a journey into the unknown and it’s one I’m not going to forget for a while.

Nanotale: my type of game

I’ve always enjoyed typing games. There’s something quite relaxing about completing a mission armed only with your keyboard, whether it’s shooting at zombies in The House of the Dead: Overkill or being Master QWERTY’s apprentice in Keyboard Sports.

During a week off work a few years back, I spent most of my time unsurprisingly playing video games and the one I had the most fun with was Epistory – Typing Chronicles. You play as the muse to a writer who’s lacking creativity and so your adventure starts on a blank page; but as you gather inspiration, solve mysteries and defeat enemies by typing the words shown onscreen, the world opens in an origami fashion and becomes filled with both life and danger.

I was therefore pleased when I heard developer Fishing Cactus was working on another project and that I’d have a chance to get my hands on a demo of Nanotale – Typing Chronicles at the EGX Rezzed event in 2019. It felt quite similar to Epistory but a lot of thought seemed to have been put into how to evolve the mechanics since the previous title. Thanks to the offer of a review key from the Plan of Attack team, I’ve finally been able to play it in full this month.

The story centres on novice Archivist Rosalind on her 18th birthday. She’s now old enough to explore the Ancestral Forest so, armed with the field notebook gifted to her by teacher Lavender, she sets off to discover rare plants and creatures. But when Dissonant Magic is lingering in the air and she’s attacked by slinking creatures after finding a Spirit Fox lying hurt in a clearing, she must set out on a journey to fix the corruption that’s filling broken hearts in her home and beyond.

Anyone who’s ever played a typing game will be familiar with the gameplay: words appear onscreen and you must enter them on your keyboard to strike enemies, pick up health and talk to non-player characters (NPCs). Nanotale builds on its predecessor’s formula by adding a few RPG elements however. New spells learnt as you progress can be used to build up bigger attacks: for example, combining ‘large’ with ‘fire’ will throw a fiery ball at your chosen target.

As seems to happen naturally with RPGs, you find your preferred spell and tend to stick with it for the majority of your playthrough, but the puzzles dotted throughout the three biomes encourage you to mix things up a bit. You can create bridges made from thick vines if you shoot your lightning spell at sand with ‘zap’ for example, but how do you do this if the ground is formed of rock? It was surprising to see a couple of new abilities introduced so late in my progress that I didn’t even use them, not even with the final boss.

Nanotale, Typing Chronicles, video game, boss battle, typing

Speaking of bosses, you face several during Nanotale and they come in the form of a large antagonist who must be defeated by taking down waves of smaller enemies in a particular way. Although these events don’t feel as frantic as those in Epistory, they’re still rather tough and there’s always a risk of hurting Rosalind through your actions. Don’t do what I did on several occasions: it’s never a good idea to use a fire spell when you’re hiding in tall grasses. Who knew they were so flammable?

It’s a matter of staying calm, being as accurate as possible with your typing, strategically choosing which creatures to attack first and picking the right spell for the environment. There are some stressful moments when you’re trapped in an arena with a wave of enemies slowly crawling towards you but at no point did I feel overwhelmed enough to stop. It’s a pleasant level of stress and there’s a great sense of achievement after you’ve made it out of a battle alive.

It’s not all about fighting though. Rosalind is an Archivist at heart and by entering the words shown above plants and trees throughout the environments, you can add them to her catalogue and find out more about them once she has enough information. There are several Steam achievements to be gained from collecting but sadly, I found that some of them didn’t trigger during my playthrough. The developer seems to be working on these issues though as fixes have been mentioned in the Steam discussions.

For anyone who’s reading this post and feeling their typing skills would stop them from playing such a game: don’t worry, as several accessibility options can be changed to suit your needs. Adaptive difficulty means Nanotale gradually changes to match your level and you can also set a time-break to help you escape from difficult battles, opt for health regeneration and use the OpenDislexic font for more readable text. For those who are interested, you can check the typing speed recorded in the menu too.

Nanotale, Typing Chronicles, video game, spirit fox, typing, desert

Unfortunately, I did encounter a few bugs; at times I became stuck on the edge of ledges, friendly creatures approached me but then wouldn’t move so I became blocked me between rocks, and at one point I was unable to leave attack mode. These problems became more apparent during the last half of the final biome and I had to respawn every 30-minutes or so to progress. At least the last checkpoints were never too far away and so I never had to go back to repeat actions already completed.

Nanotale’s map feels far bigger than Epistory, although my playtime of 14-hours was only three more than for the previous game. The lack of a fast-travel option didn’t bother me at all because the environments are so pretty and the transitions between the different atmosphere in each biome – the Ancestral Forest, Sunken Caves and Blue Desert – is lovely. The only small niggle I had was the lack of a quest marker onscreen as having to keep leaving the game to check my direction on the map broke my immersion a little.

The final negative is that some of the smaller areas just don’t feel completely finished. There’s a section to the right in the desert that isn’t filled with anything other than rocks and seems to be missing both NPCs and enemies. And a bridge to a new location is marked on the map in the forest but when you arrive there, there’s no switch to activate and you can’t cross it. The fact that there’s plenty of content to see in other places unfortunately makes these omissions more obvious.

But did I enjoy Nanotale? Definitely. It’s very easy to escape into as the typing gameplay and lack of more action-y elements usually found in RPGs make it a relaxing change from many other games in the genre, yet it’s still challenging in all the right places. The environments and soundtrack are both gorgeous too to top it all off. It’s a great follow-up to Epistory and you can see how much Fishing Cactus have learnt from their experience of creating the previous title.

I’d recommend playing Nanotale – Typing Chronicles if you’re a fan of typing games because it’s a lot of fun; I finished it over four sessions and each one went on for longer than I intended because lost track of time after being sucked into its world. It’s just good to be aware of the bugs you might encounter during the final third of the game or be patient enough to wait for them to be resolved. The developer does seem to be actively working on fixing these and is keeping everyone updated via Steam discussions.

I hope the Fishing Cactus team go on to create more instalments in the Typing Chronicles series. Until we hear more news, I’ll be working on increasing my typing speed.

Murder on the Nile: not so much a mystery

Although video games are my preferred form of entertainment, I’ve found myself branching out during lockdown. Escape-rooms-in-boxes and choose-your-own-detective-adventures have provided a nice break away from the screen after working from home all day.

Jigsaws have also featured since completing the Space Observatory version of Ravensburger’s Exit Puzzles last April. The twist with these is that the game doesn’t end when you’ve managed to fit the 759-pieces together: the picture you’re trying to create is slightly different to the one on the box and contains symbols and numbers. Figure out the answer to the clues and you’ll come up with a way to ‘escape’ the situation depicted in the puzzle, such as meteor hurtling towards the planet.

When my other-half and I chose to stream The Witch’s Kitchen version in February, we soon discovered that our cat Zelda wanted to get involved. This made for several relaxed evenings on Twitch because we were able to sit back and talk to our friends in chat while she rolled around on camera. It therefore seemed like a good idea to line up a few more jigsaws for our 90-days of streaming for GameBlast21, and we’re currently hosting a weekly Cat & Chat segment every Friday.

Unfortunately, my decision to start with Murder on the Nile from the Classic Mystery range by University Games wasn’t the best one. I made the silly mistake of not checking whether the jigsaw would fit out our puzzle-board before the stream and it turned out to be too big. We had to move the 1000-pieces to our dining-room table the following day where I continued to work on them over the next couple of weeks, so I could finally complete the picture and solving the murder-mystery.

Like the Exit Puzzles series, these aren’t your standard jigsaws and the three-stage premise will appeal to anyone who likes detective narratives. The first stage is to read the booklet that comes in the box to find out about the case and the villain you’re trying to catch. You next put together the puzzle, which is harder than it sounds because you aren’t provided with an image. Then you can unleash your inner private investigator (PI) and discover the clues within the picture to piece together the evidence and solve the crime.

The story for Murder on the Nile is written by Bruce Whitehall and features Hercule Poirot, the fictional Belgian detective created by author Agatha Christie. After being hired to investigate the disappearance of silver cutlery at the home of Lady Nancy Stuart in Stratford-Upon-Avon, he is invited on a trip to Egypt to celebrate her 60th birthday. Disaster strikes when her body is found on the floor of a steamboat saloon. It’s up to you to piece together the puzzle (pun intended) and figure out whodunnit.

Murder on the Nile, jigsaw puzzle

This is probably one of the most difficult and, despite the added narrative element, most boring jigsaws I’ve ever attempted. The setting means that two-thirds of the image is taken up by wood-panelled walls so there are plenty of straight lines and many shades of brown. Although most of the pieces are unique in shape unlike the Exit Puzzles range, it took longer to fit them together because there’s very little in the image other than a few objects mentioned in the story.

This is unfortunately where Murder on the Nile’s biggest problem lies. I remember having one of these murder-mystery puzzles when I was a lot younger and not being able to figure out who the killer was, because I couldn’t connect the clues in the image. That kind of challenge was what I was expecting to have now and with all the knowledge I’ve gained from playing various detective games over the past year, I was looking forward to putting my newfound PI skills to the test.

But the jigsaw only contained one real clue and this pretty much names the criminal for you immediately – and that’s if you can’t figure out who it is from reading the story alone, because it’s far too apparent. I was hoping there was something I’d overlooked or that I’d fallen into the classic trap of finding a red-herring because the evidence was so obvious it felt like a trick. But no: as I held the back pages of the booklet up to a mirror to read the reversed conclusion, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll bother picking up another entry in the Classic Mystery series. The image created and clues revealed just weren’t good enough to make the length of time it took to complete the puzzle worthwhile. If you’re a person who likes difficult jigsaws and isn’t so interested in there being a narrative, you might find some enjoyment in it; but if it’s the detective angle which interests you, there are better experiences out there.

If anyone has any suggestions for better puzzle ranges we could use for our Cat & Chat streams, please do let me know!

Dragon’s Lair: not the game I remember

There can be something magical about revisiting a video game from your childhood. Pick the right title and you can be instantly transported back to being a kid, when the weekends seemed to go on for ages and you had so much free time for the controller.

The most recent example of this for me was The 7th Guest. Although it’s now easy to see how bad the full-motion video (FMV) is and cringe at the cliched scary moments, it brought back everything I remembered about gaming in the 1990s. The title before this was Shivers and it was a different nostalgic experience. It reminded me of how much this released scared me in 1995 – so much in fact that I could feel my palms sweating, and I haven’t yet returned to it since.

On the flipside though, there are also occasions when you pick up an old game and fail to understand what made it so special for you when you were young. You eagerly sit there waiting for the installation to complete, hoping you’re going to witness that same magic all over again, but something is missing when you’re finally able to press the start button and you come away disappointed. This is just what happened to me when I decided to try Dragon’s Lair last month.

This was a game I have some memory of playing at my parent’s house when I was a kid, although it’s kind of vague and I’m not entirely sure when this was or the platform. I’m assuming it was my Amiga seeing as I spent so much of my free time on the thing but can’t confirm this. What I do recall however is never finishing because it was too difficult for me, and then deciding to purchase it in on Steam in July 2013 with a bunch of other old titles but never getting around to playing it again.

It captured my attention when I was young because it was like being in a cartoon thanks to its Western animation-style graphics. The other video games I was familiar with at the time were all pixelated, so it looked completely different to anything else I’d played before and I enjoyed stories about magic and evil wizards. When I realised that it was a potential choice for this year’s #MaybeInMarch event, I had a hard time deciding between Dragon’s Lair and Machinarium.

The latter eventually won, and I enjoyed the six-hours I spent with the point-and-click. It might not be the best adventure I’ve ever completed but there was something incredibly charming about the protagonist and robotic world he lived in. Even though my decision for #MaybeInMarch had already been made, I decided to install Dragon’s Lair too and give it a little go one evening; and after realising it was still as difficult as I remembered it to be, Pete and I thought it might make for a fun stream.

Dragon's Lair, video game, animation, knight, Dirk the Daring, Princess Daphne, kiss, cuddle, rescue

The storyline is pretty much what you’d expect from a 1983 arcade game: Dirk the Daring is a knight attempting to rescue Princess Daphne from the horrible dragon Singe, after he locks her in a castle belonging to the foul wizard Mordroc. It’s easy to figure out how little magic there is in this synopsis when reading it with adult eyes, but there was just something about it at the time that made me want to reach the conclusion of the game and find out whether the hero and his love-interest lived happily ever after.

The gameplay consists entirely of animated cutscenes and series of around 30 quick-time events (QTEs). In the original release, these were displayed at random and all had to be completed without failure in order to get to the end. In the Steam version however, we made things a little easier for ourselves: selecting the ‘home’ version to have the scenes played in order, along with additional lives and continues, meant we were able to finish Dragon’s Lair in just over an hour.

I was disappointed. None of the magic I felt as a child was there any longer and it was obvious how this had been a game designed to make young men give up as much money as possible in the arcade. As you can probably guess already, my biggest frustration was with Princess Daphne – although I can’t say whether it was her damsel-in-distress act or inappropriate clothing that annoyed me more. If she was that cold, she should really have been wearing a cardigan.

I came across an excellent quote while researching some background details for this post. In an article for Hardcore Gamer in August 2013, author Nikola Suprak wrote: “Years of playing video games has made me very familiar with the ‘save the princess’ motif, which makes me extremely suspicious about Daphne’s princess credentials. There is a far greater chance that she is just a stripper with the stage name Princess than an actual princess, because if actual princesses dressed like she did the royal weddings wouldn’t be so boring to watch.”

Perhaps the magic I’d felt as a child disappeared quickly because I’m a grown-up who is able to see the game for what it really is. Maybe it’s because too much has been changed from the original release to make the Steam version. Or perhaps Dragon’s Lair has now lost something that I’ve completed it and there’s no longer that wonder about what happens at the end. Whatever the reason is, there’s very little chance of me ever revisiting the series again in the future.

I’m glad I didn’t choose Dragon’s Lair for this year’s #MaybeInMarch event, but I’m also pleased that it’s another old game off my backlog. What’s next?

GHOSTS: a haunting experience on Kickstarter

Since revisiting The 7th Guest for our GameBlast21 marathon stream, I’ve been on a bit of a full-motion video (FMV) binge. I know the genre still has plenty of critics but modern releases can be far different from those published in the 1990s.

It’s not all fuzzy video, cheesy lines and hammed-up acting nowadays (although you can still find that kind of stuff if it’s what floats your boat). For example, Contradiction: Spot the Liar! is a great detective mystery where it’s up to you to gather clues and track down the murderer; and The Madness of Doctor Dekker is an excellent atmospheric thriller played via text-parser. Then there’s The Dark Side of the Moon, one of my favourite recent titles thanks to its lovely cast and science-fiction storyline.

Sadly, it’s going to be rather difficult for horror FMVs to shake off their bad reputation. Let’s face it: older releases such as Night Trap and Harvester, which I found to be a confusing and cringeworthy mess when I played it back in October, are known for being schlocky and gratuitous with plenty of fake blood. This notoriety automatically tarnishes current titles which attempt to do scary FMV in the right way and they have to work that much harder to get the positive attention they deserve.

Perhaps GHOSTS will be able to do something to change this though. After Kevin from The Lawful Geek sent me an email earlier this week to let me know about the project, I’m now a backer for the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being written and directed by Jed Shephard in partnership with Visible Games and Limited Run Games, and they’re promising to create ‘a horror experience that aims to truly chill your blood and send FMV games screaming into the modern day’.

Players step into the role of a television producer who operates the outside broadcast van for a failing cable channel called FrighTV and it’s up to you to make their latest show a hit. GHOSTS previously had millions of viewers glued to their screens as a group of ghost-hunters explored haunted locations around the UK – but it was dropped as it became less popular and languished on freeview for several years. That was until it was snapped up by your channel and rebranded for relaunch in 2022.

As your team look around the most haunted place in London, it’s not only their safety you need to worry about. There are noises coming from all around the van, strange neighbours and a weird urban legend about The Long Lady. Sightings of this spirit have chilled the bones of residents for decades and she is said to appear looking through the windows of the houses on the street during times of tragedy. The rumour is that if you look directly at her face, you die…

You’re in charge of what’s shown to the viewers at home and you’ll have to think on your feet as you react to every moment to keep things interesting during the live show. You’ll be able to see all the feeds streaming from cameras around the location as well as heart-rate monitors observing each of the cast. You decide what gets broadcast and your choices can affect the future of the show, as well as perhaps the safety of the team; luckily, you’ll have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you ‘spice up’ the night and keep it entertaining.

The description on the Kickstarter page reminds me somewhat of Not For Broadcast gameplay-wise, a title where you take over the national news and control what’s reported about a radical government. In GHOSTS though, you’ll also have access to various documents, videos and audio files which have been collected by the local community over the years. Can you decipher them to help understand what’s going on, and discover something which will stop the horrifying events from unfolding?

Not too much is given away in the promotional trailer but there’s a nice scene at the end which could give us an idea of the jump-scares to come. The five members of the cast are introduced here and all have an impressive array of acting experience. Regular visitors to the blog will already be aware that I’m a total coward when it comes to anything scary so I know what they’re thinking right now: why on earth would I become a back for a horror game that looks pretty frightening?

Well, there are two reasons other than it being an FMV. The first is that the real-time version of the game is only playable at 22:00 in your local time-zone so everyone playing in your area will be doing so at the same time. You’ll see a classic test card if you load before then but if you can crack its puzzle, you’ll get access to a version where you can save your progress. There are consequences for all your choices though and the Kickstarter campaign warns that playing it safe isn’t always the best option.

The second reason is that, if you decide to leave your station at any point during your playthrough, the game will register your lack of movement and end your session. And you can probably guess what that means for your team: desertion of duty will result in the cast being killed off in a variety of gruesome ways. You’re responsible for their wellbeing along with the future of the GHOSTS show so take a bathroom break, grab plenty of snacks, turn off the lights and get comfortable.

Almost 25% of the project’s £165,000 goal has been raised at the time of writing and there’s still just under a month to go before the deadline of 07 May 2021. I think it’s safe to say that when GHOSTS is released in February 2022, we’ll be streaming it using our night camera – but my other-half will be on the controls while I hide behind a cushion. I’m not good with the horror genre at the best of times, let alone when FMV makes it look as though it’s real people being haunted…

Take a look at the Kickstarter page for more information and follow Visible Games on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the project’s progress.