I’ve never played a game that’s as promising for the future of indie development on console as Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture.
True, it’s because I haven’t actually played all that many indie games on console – I’ve had my Playstation 4 barely a month, and had shied away from downloading games or playing online on my rickety 360 in case it suddenly exploded.
But having traded in said (unexploded) 360 over the weekend for a selection of PS4 titles, I was ready to see what awaited me in the comparatively brave new world of non-triple As. And with the latest release from The Chinese Room all ready to go, I was very pleased to land on a veritable Plymouth Rock of the digital frontier.
As I walked ever deeper into the mystery of a quaint English village I found myself gripped by the storyline in a way I haven’t felt with a console game in a long time. In fact, not since the heady days of the Portal games have I felt such a strong affinity to storytelling as I did here.
In Rapture you’re tasked with exploring an English village in the 1980s, whose inhabitants have all upped and gone somewhere. As you open cottage doors and set out to explore the farmland, accompanied by supernatural visions of the events leading up to the apocalyptic event, it’s up to you to piece together what’s happened to everyone.
I don’t want to spoil anything here, but the stylised mix of ordinary and extraordinary you see in every frame of the game is absolutely glorious, with suitably spooky graphics and sound; the simple piano and strings music is especially a huge hauntingly beautiful highlight of the gameplay for me. Even if there weren’t such a brilliant story behind it, the graphical rendition of the scenery is fantastic and the sound design so well put together.
Although a fairly linear experience, the interaction with your surroundings has been very cleverly created, and it’s through the little touches like switching on a radio or reading a notice on the church board that you start piecing together the story, along with the visual and aural echoes of recent conversations and actions between the villagers.
The tension gently simmers away as the pieces of the jigsaw come together, before building up to some absolutely stunning sequences which link each chapter of the story – and a finale that honestly took my breath away. The whole game is beautiful yet bleak, and I enjoyed it so much.
One of the things that turned my head Sony’s way in this gaming generation is that, from the outset, they set out to win fans over by helping the next generation of indie developers connect with a new audience.
Games like Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture have absolutely repaid that faith and made me realise there’s more to console gaming than killing Nazis and driving a Batmobile – though there’s plenty of room for that too, as we’ll all find out over the coming weeks.