At the virtual show floor of the Tribeca Games Festival we played some highly anticipated sequels, here our test of A Plague Tale: Requiem, as well as productions with great narrative power (the tried of As Dusk Falls is just a click away) but perhaps, thanks to the guessed visual style and the ideas behind the adventure, the product that amazed us the most was Out of the Blue Games’ American Arcadia.
The Madrid-based collective of veterans has already proved its worth with Call of the Sea and now wants to offer us the story of a man on the run and a woman willing to risk everything to allow him to leave behind the glittering and fictitious perfection of Arcadia. Well, we were given the opportunity to try the game for almost 25 minutes, in an introductory section halfway between The Matrix and The Truman Show that gave us a real taste of this dystopian retro-future with a 70s flavor.
There is something terribly rotten in this country …
Trevor Hills, aged 28, he is at the desk of a police station, with officers who are subjecting him to a videotaped interrogation. La di lui is one of those stories you don’t hear so often, the story of a lie that for nearly three decades has called life, the awakening from a sparkling dream and the providential yet abrupt discovery of a terrible reality. The plot of American Arcadia develops with a documentary air and follows the absurd tale to the policemen of the former INAC account manager.
After a brief escape sequence in a swampy area illuminated by the moonlight and the spotlights of the squadrons in charge of capturing Trevor, known as Subject 10392, we found ourselves at the beginning of the events narrated, when the protagonist’s life was an uninterrupted routine of worldliness. . Past the entrance to INAC’s Gemini Towers – the company he worked for nearly 10 years – Hills discovered through a video ad what he believed to be good news. for his friend Gus Rainey. According to the reassuring words of Vivian Walton, one of the leading figures of Arcadia, the colleague had won a dream trip, between sunny beaches and crystalline seas, and was about to leave.
Trevor knew that Rainey was no lover of this sort of thing or a beach dance party, and his colleagues chatting near the bar area also claimed the same thing. By now near his desk, the man was letting these thoughts fade, until some advertising banners appropriately reshuffled on the screen of the room provided a macabre answer to his questions: “Gus is dead”.
Confused and willing to follow the arrows that were parked on the panels of the building, the account manager saw the doors of the inaccessible ADA Room open and inside he discovered the truth: American Arcadia was not a city but only the gigantic theater of a reality show distributed to paying audiences around the world. The citizens were nothing more than unwitting VIPs or extras, depending on the popularity of each, the gears of a money-eating machine that – when necessary – they had to be “thrown away” and replaced. Gus was not headed for exotic destinations but he had been eliminated and soon, if he had not followed the instructions of the one who was starting to speak to him to the letter, Trevor would have made the same “journey” as well. In his desperate escape from the Interceptors, the units tasked with eliminating him to avoid the “breaking of the fourth wall”, Trevor saw Walton’s true face – a treacherous actress oblivious to the fact that an unimportant person like him should die – and began asking questions of Angela known as “Kovacs”, his mysterious savior.
Of this prologue halfway between the Matrix and The Truman Show we enjoyed practically everything, starting with the exchange of words between the two characters. Tight and above all credible, the dialogues could prove to be one of the brightest components of the narrative sector, which we hope will be able to intrigue us and keep us on our toes for the duration of the adventure. There is a lot to know about the reasons that push Kovacs to help the victim, as well as about identity and vision. of the gray eminences behind the reality show and frankly, given the premises, we look forward to the moment when it will be possible to do so.
Escape a glittering nightmare
Even on the purely playful front, American Arcadia offers a potentially interesting mix between 2.5D scrolling action with platforming elements and 3D adventure with first person view based on exploration and environmental puzzles. Between the dark corridors of the backstage of the city and the breathtaking but head-turning views offered by the protrusions of the Gemini Tower, Trevor had to sell his skin dearly by coordinating with Angela. In a series of sections of increasing complexitywe have moved crates and trolleys to reach elevated areas, perhaps illuminated by a reflector correctly positioned by our guardian angel (always controlled by us).
To escape the clutches of the Interceptors, the frail protagonist had to jump at the right moment, venture into the inevitable air ducts and even walk in balance on a crane, while Kovacs made sure to move the moving parts. to prevent pursuers from continuing. The simultaneous control of the two characters will certainly have allowed the insiders to build sections of the game full of tension, in which they have to make perfect use of the skills of both. Also in the demo version we got a taste of a slightly different situation.
In order for a stranded Hills to continue on the run, Kovacs had to leave his station and explore the entire floor in order to find a password to enter a superior’s office and use his PC. Since we had to cover the traces of his work before looking for the string of numbers to enter on the keypad, we had to project fake scenes on the cameras of the entire management room, choosing each time the correct image to send to the surveillance devices. In short, it is likely that during the sections as Angela we will have to sharpen our wits in many ways and, hopefully, collect clues to learn other secrets about the city and those who govern it.
The idea of the two playful tracks, which intersect at certain times, is certainly interesting: we only hope that the developers have managed to sufficiently variegate the gameplay and remove the shadow of repetitiveness. In that sense, Trevor’s words to the agents at the end of the demo are promising, as he claims he had to take even more “burdensome” actions after his initial escape. That at some point he had to get his hands dirty to survive? We do not know this but we have every intention of finding out. For the moment we can only talk about the initial section, it is true, but we want to applaud the artistic direction of American Arcadia.
From the smallest details, we think of the font used for the writings on the posters and the INAC logos, up to the convexity of screens and surfaces, the feeling is really that of being in a retro-future with the flavor of the 70s. The glasses, hairstyles and clothing are in fact typical of that decade – like the bell bottoms – while the management offices Angela visited are full of advanced equipment. From the blocky characters to the cartoonish style with which the game world is outlined, even the visual presentation of the work of Out of the Blue Games exudes personality from all pores. At this point we just have to wait patiently for the game to come out: only in this way will we be able to understand for itself its excellent prologue is actually the forerunner of an unmissable journey.