With each passing year, more and more game-making tools become available to the public, giving aspiring game developers a means to turn their dreams into realities. Legend has it that every blue moon, Steam comes along and whisks away one of these masterpieces to give it a home, a place to be discovered, and to hold it close to its warm bosom and… I’m getting a little side tracked here. My point is that it’s easier than ever to get into amateur game development, and fortunately many people do. It’s a wonderful thing that almost brings a tear to my eye. This gradual rise in accessibility has breathed new life into genres that were once on the verge of extinction. Indie creators now fill the void left by studios that moved away from old favorites, as they gravitate towards the next new trend. In essence, they bring us games that the big guys no longer care to make. Point-and-click adventures are among those genres rejuvenated by indie developers and Bunker – The Underground Game is one of the many games this movement spawned.
So, with all these new titles already available and more looming on the horizon, does Bunker have what it takes to stand out? Sadly, the answer is “no.” Powered by a tiny development team at Nightly Studios, which is essentially Tony Sundell aided by Satoko “Holly” Young (music) and Matti Faler (sound design), Bunker is a fine effort, but ultimately fails to shine among an ever growing pile of point-and-clicks.
Of course, this wouldn’t be much of a review if I didn’t elaborate, so worry not dear reader, as all will be explained.
We take on the role of Otto Thompson, one of thirteen identical twins who apparently found his individuality through the awesome power of glasses. This and other aspects of his backstory are revealed through a short opening cutscene, and then promptly discarded, as these details play no part in any future events. Otto decides to try his luck at internet dating. Things don’t go quite as planned and he soon finds himself kidnapped and imprisoned inside the titular Bunker. Without giving too much away, most of our time is spent navigating around said bunker, as Otto tries to make his escape and wreaks havoc in the process.
The narrative seems to be an attempt at comical social commentary, but shifts between satire and crude humor much in the same way an art critic would suddenly shed his beret and jam a lampshade on his head. Bunker is a proprietary blend of “witty” and “crude” with just a pinch of “borderline offensive” to spice things up. There’s also some toilet humor thrown in for good measure, literally.
Gameplay is your standard point-and-click affair: talk to other characters, interact with objects and collect items that will eventually have to be used on something in order to progress. Occasional pathfinding issues pose some frustration and the ability to fast travel between doors is absent, but otherwise it’s what one would expect from a point-and-click adventure. Most of the puzzles won’t bend your mind into a pretzel, though there’s definitely a few I would classify as clever and at least one that falls in the fuzzy logic category. Being indie satire, Bunker furiously nods and winks at other titles with a nervous twitch. Borderlands, Mass Effect and even a particularly cheeky take on RPGs, are just some of the references I identified along the way. While not very subtle, most of them brought a smile to my face.
Visuals shift from pixelated retro graphics during cutscenes to a smooth, modern look for the pointy and clickie parts. I doubt anyone will be blown away by the presentation (I certainly wasn’t), but it’s hardly fair to demand AAA graphics from a one man studio. So, if the graphics don’t impress then how about the sound? Well, for one thing, there’s no voice acting, though I’m not entirely sure I want to know what Otto sounds like. For some reason I can’t imagine his voice being anything but annoying, so the floating text above his head may be a blessing in disguise. In contrast, Bunker offers a surprisingly robust score for a game of its length, that does a great job of framing whatever scene Otto happens to be stumbling through.
Speaking of length, most playthroughs will clock in at two to four hours. For anyone that loves hunting down Easter eggs, minor replayability comes in the form of 33 hidden secrets that also tie into Steam achievement and may extend play time for completionists. To its credit, Bunker becomes much more enjoyable near its conclusion and wraps up before wearing out its welcome. It’s a bite-sized point-and-click that fails to amaze, yet offers a few interesting puzzles and at least one unexpected plot twist along the way. A fine, if somewhat rough around the edges, first effort by Nightly Studios. I look forward to seeing more from Tony and friends in the future.