Touring England through FMV games

Video games have provided a much-needed escape for so many of us over the past year. While we’ve been stuck indoors during various lockdowns, we’ve been able to explore digital worlds both fictional and real from the comfort of our sofas.

Full-motion video (FMV) games have made a frequent appearance on my playlist and streams over the past few months and many of them were filmed here in the UK. D’Avekki Studios has created some of the best and I’ve followed them since completing The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker a few years ago. It was their next release, The Shapeshifting Detective, which introduced me to my favourite FMV actors: the awesome Rupert Booth and Anarosa Butler.

Titles like this gave me inspiration for celebrating English Tourism Week 2021. What better way to explore the country without travelling than through interactive movies? Unfortunately though, my research uncovered very little information about where filming took place. Titles such as ERICA by Flavorworks and Late Shift by CtrlMovie have either no Filming and Production section on their IMDb pages or one which isn’t particularly helpful. I did manage to track down some locations however, so let’s take a quick tour around England.

Great Budworth in Contradiction: Spot the Liar!

Billed as ‘the most picturesque village in Cheshire’, Great Budworth looks like a lovely place to visit for a quiet weekend (if you ignore the murder that Detective Jenks was sent there to investigate). The George & Dragon pub is a pretty Grade II listed building which we ended up visiting several times during our playthrough of Contradiction, although sadly didn’t stop for a drink at. Interesting fact: the telephone box our hero uses to call the police chief was transformed into a mini-library in 2011.

Sandwich in The Complex

I’ve not played The Complex yet myself so thank you to friend-of-the-blog Phil for letting me know about this one! It was filmed at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent, ‘a global leader for science and enterprise with world-class laboratories and exceptional office space’. It seems like the perfect place to film a game about the fallout after a bio-weapon attack on London and what the scientists do when they find themselves running out of both time and air in a locked-down lab… On second thought, do we really want to visit this place?

Shrewsbury in I Saw Black Clouds

I Saw Black Clouds isn’t the best FMV title I’ve ever played and I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of playing it heeds the trigger warning included in its introduction. But the pub featured as one of the locations looks like a lot of fun! The ALB in Shrewsbury, Shropshire is a family-run cocktail bar and I wouldn’t mind trying their Bitch Juice or Bad Apple. For something completely different, check out the Shelton Hospital, the abandoned building where Kristina is stalked by something spooky.

Kelvedon Hatch in The Bunker

The Secret Nuclear Bunker in Kelvedon Hatch, Essex, is the setting for The Bunker. It was once a Regional Government HQ where a team was tasked to organise the survival of the population in the aftermath of a nuclear war but is now open to the public as a museum. I’ve visited this place several times in the past as my stepson was fascinated with it when he was younger; it has such a heavy atmosphere, just like the feeling you get when you play the game. Check out this post to see my photographs.

Monk Fryston in The Dark Side of the Moon

We had a lot of fun playing The Dark Side of the Moon in March and were surprised by the developer and his family when they joined us during our stream. Instead of immediately looking for the missing children in the most obvious places, our friends in Twitch chat demanded we always went ‘To The Crown!’ first. Monk Fryston looks like such a nice place for a weekend away – so much so that my other-half and I are planning a trip to Leeds later this year. Look out for another post at some point.

VisitEngland, the organisers of English Tourism Week, and developers seem to be missing a trick. FMV games are a great way to promote towns and villages around the country that many people might not otherwise have heard of, and encourage gamers to get outside and visit them now that lockdown is easing. Come on, creators: share the details on IMDb, Wikipedia or the official website for your project so we can check out these locations and start planning our weekends.

Do you know where other FMV releases were filmed? Or has a video game, FMV or otherwise, ever inspired you to visit a real-world location? Let us know in the comments below.

Halloween games for people who don’t like horror

As mentioned in my post about Project Zero, I’m a big wuss when it comes to horror games. My other-half can play them in the dark and not even flinch – but I’ll be left thinking about them long after the PC or console has been switched off, my imagination going into overdrive.

So what’s a cowardly girl to do when this spooky time of year comes around? My usual solution is to make Pete play while I hide from the safety of behind a cushion, because I enjoy the kind of stories shared through the horror genre although I don’t like being on the controls myself. I grew up reading books by Stephen King and Dean Koontz from a far-too-early age and this has made me terrified of monsters lurking in the shadows, yet also strangely intrigued by them.

But sometimes you don’t want to sit back and watch: you’d rather be in control of a game yourself. And the great thing about video games nowadays is that we have so much choice; there’s something out there for absolutely everybody regardless of how much a scaredy-cat you are. Here’s my list of recommendations for people like me, who want to get involved in the Halloween fun this weekend but would rather it didn’t involve them being scared witless or awake all night.

Catherine

Altus’ Catherine isn’t a horror in the conventional sense but it still gets pretty dark. The gameplay is split into two sections: the daytime segment where protagonist Vincent interacts with friends and other patrons at the Stray Sheep Bar, and the foreboding nightmares where he must solve block puzzles to climb a tower and escape from falling to his death. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to Vincent’s story as it chooses to focus on moral ambiguity, so you might find yourself questioning some of your choices.

Costume Quest

Go back to the Halloweens of your childhood with Double Fine’s Costume Quest, a cartoony RPG about a group of young kids out trick-or-treating when a sibling is kidnapped by a monster. Each of them wears a costume and their imagination takes over in the turn-based battles: they transform into giant versions whatever they’re dressed as and are granted appropriate super-powers to match. It’s a fun game which isn’t too hard to complete and will remind you of the excitement of eating far too many sweets.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

If you decide to pick up this point-and-click for Halloween, do yourself a favour: get the original version of Gabriel Knights: Sins of the Fathers by Sierra Online rather than the 20th Anniversary Edition by Phoenix Online Studios. That way, you won’t miss out on the excellent voice-acting by Tim Curry and some of the sleaziest so-bad-they’re-good lines ever in a story about a series of murders related to voodoo. Nathan from Gaming Omnivore recently played this for our game-swap so check out his thoughts on the game in this post.

Gone Home

The opening of Gone Home by Fullbright has all the makings of a horror situation: a thunderstorm, an abandoned house, rooms shrouded in darkness and many niggling questions. There are several moments where it feels as though you’re being followed – such as the part where you must go down into the basement – but there’s really nothing scary here. What you’ll find instead is a sincere story about teenage love and finding yourself, along with some of the best voice-acting in video games I’ve ever experienced.

Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods by Infinite Fall is another game which contains nothing scary in the conventional sense. Instead, it manages to capture the hollowness of moving from the warmer months into autumn and winter, along with the uncertainties and pressures of real life. The story is told through a cast of wonderful characters that make it worth playing. A special mention for Candy: I love the way the story hints at her being more than just a mum, and how she’s dealing with issues she’s trying to keep her daughter shielded from.

The Bunker

If you’re a fan of full-motion video (FMV) games like me, check out The Bunker by Splendy Games for a tale about the last remaining survivor in a nuclear bunker who’s shielded from the outside world. And if you’re in the Essex area, why not plan a trip to the Secret Nuclear Bunker in Kelvedon Hatch before you do so? Getting the chance to visit the place where the title was filmed made it even more creepy for me and the atmosphere in real-life is just a heavy as the feeling I got when playing the title: dark, and full of memories and ghosts.

The Room series

The Room by Fireproof Games is one of the best puzzle series ever made. It’s amazing how much atmosphere is packed into each instalment – even more so when you consider that the games were originally made for mobile. Although the sharp piano notes in the background and the dust motes in the air speak of loneliness, it feels as though there’s always someone watching you. The visuals are realistic yet somehow hazy, which gives each episode a dreamlike quality: it’s almost as if you’re inhabiting a room straight out of your imagination.

Bonus game: SOMA

It may seem strange to include this one on today’s list because it’s an entry in the horror genre in the true sense, but I’d recommend giving SOMA by Frictional Games a try – if you’re feeling brave enough after turning on the Safe Mode, of course. This will allow you to experience the title’s creepy atmosphere while removing the risk of in-game death. What’s truly scary about it isn’t the monsters but the questions it will force you to ask yourself, and you’ll stay thinking about them long after you’ve put the controller down.



Are there any other games you’d recommend for scaredy-cats like me at Halloween? Tell us about them in the comments below and, if you’d like to witness me hiding behind a cushion while Pete plays Amnesia, come join us over on Twitch this Saturday.

The Bunker in real life

As part of the Charming and Open event, I asked writer Ian to tell us about the place from a video game he’d most like to visit. There are so many great settings in games that our itinerary is likely to become pretty full, and it would be a good idea to sort out your travel insurance.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a location that stars in a video game and it was a pretty surreal experience. Full motion video (FMV) adventure-horror The Bunker was developed by Splendy Games and Wales Interactive, and published by Green Man Gaming last year. John is the last remaining survivor in a nuclear bunker and it’s only his daily routine that keeps him sane; but when an alarm goes off, his mind starts to self-destruct. It’s up to the player to guide him through long-forgotten areas in order to unlock his repressed memories and uncover the secrets of this dark place he calls home.

The Bunker was filmed entirely at the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker in Essex over a period of 15 days. This place was built in 1952-1953 and maintained during the cold war as a potential regional government headquarters. In the event of a nuclear strike, the hundreds of military and civilian personnel housed there would be tasked to organise the survival of the population and continue government operations. It has been open to the public since being decommissioned in 1992 and the ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’ signs dotted around the area now make its location a bit of a giveaway.

Kelvedon Hatch isn’t too far away from me and my stepson has a huge interest in anything historic or related to war (he’s at that age) so we took a trip there and I played The Bunker the following evening. It was such a weird experience, seeing somewhere we’d stood only yesterday appear on-screen – particularly when parts of the plot feature a hooded villain with an axe! The layout shown in the game itself isn’t strictly true and we weren’t allowed access to some areas, but we visited many of the rooms shown in the game. The atmosphere in real life is just as heavy as the feeling you get when playing The Bunker: dark, and full of memories and ghosts.

I purchased a permit to take the photographs below and you can compare them with my playthrough video above. As for the game itself, it’s one I’d recommend if you’re into atmospheric adventures or FMV; but I’d suggest either waiting for a sale due to its short completion time and lack of challenge, or until you’re able to visit Kelvedon Hatch yourself to get the most out of it. Well done to the developers though for making one of the most engrossing live-action video games I’ve played.

If only visiting all game locations was that easy. Right now I could do with heading to the beaches of Banoi… well, before the zombie outbreak anyway.

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker photo gallery

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