The Bunker Review – Sheltered Life (PS4)
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for video games with full-motion video (FMV). Typically, these games are overly corny (either purposefully or not), and I will glowingly talk about Make My Video: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and Sewer Shark to anyone that will listen, despite them being terrible games. So, when I heard that a new horror point-and-click adventure game was being made entirely from live-action footage, I was excited to check it out.
That game comes from Wales Interactive and is called The Bunker. It’s a psychological-thriller taking place in a survival bunker starring a 30-something man named John who was born inside the bunker, and thus has never left it. Mysteriously, only John is left after his mother passes away.
Instantly my mind was filled with questions. Why did a survival bunker, one that was shown to have dozens of people in a flashback scene showing John’s birth, somehow get down to only two people? What happened the other occupants? Thankfully, all of these questions are answered in due time as The Bunker masterfully answers the questions it needs to, and leaves the door open on some larger ones that are better left unanswered.
With his mother gone, who is clearly shown to be his only friend and support system, John is left to live an existence that is ruled by a schedule that she left him. He checks the radiation levels every morning, takes a vitamin B supplement, makes sure to eat, checks the radio for any sign of survival and then creepily reads to his dead mother’s corpse (which is only topped by the fact that he appears to go to the bathroom while eating). John is clearly not equipped to be on his own, but he knows that as long as he follows the schedule he’ll be fine.
Since doing the same five things would get rather boring quickly (although you can read a technical manual about nuclear shelters to his mother, which made me laugh in a sort of twisted manner), things naturally go downhill once the player starts observing on John’s life. There’s an issue with the radiation levels, and it’s up to John (with the assistance of the player guiding him) to fix it.
The Bunker does a great job of making John seem like a fish out of water, despite him never knowing a life outside of the shelter. He has stayed on the same floor, going to the same couple rooms for dozens of years now. He never ventures to the other floors of the building, and actor Adam Brown (who was in The Hobbit) does a fantastic job of portraying him as a nervous wreck who is in over his head.
It’s not all watching a film, though, as The Bunker is an adventure game. At all times I could control a reticle on-screen with the left analog stick, and could use it to interact with objects similar to a point-and-click title. Sadly, these areas only light up when hovered over, and the reticle is absolutely tiny, so it was sometimes a bit frustrating when figuring out what I could interact with. A lot of modern adventure games let players hit a button to light up all possible objects, but that isn’t the case here.
That isn’t a huge blow to the game, but it does make it a less user-friendly experience in terms of interface. The actual gameplay is very straightforward as generally John has a goal to do (such as replacing a fuse) and I would have to click my way to the fuse box, find a fuse somewhere, and then have him replace it.
Some of the in-game actions such as pulling a lever are actually replicated on-screen similar to Heavy Rain. So I had to move the reticle up and down in order to open a door, and do a few other small motions. It’s a small touch, but it really does break up some of the monotony of what is a very basic adventure game with little in terms of puzzle solving. There are also some collectibles to find in the area (toys that John made when he was a boy)
Storytelling Done Right
The Bunker is a rather short experience clocking in at only a few hours long (it lasts about as long as I would want a film on the subject to go on for), but the real triumph is how it uses FMV to its advantage. It really felt like I was interacting with a film, and never once did I cringe at poor acting. It feels like an honest to goodness movie, and that’s quite the accomplish.
Still, as a game there are some weaker areas. The game will sometimes incorporate quick-time events into the mix (that will cause a game over) and they feel very out of place. There are only a few during the entire game, but they could’ve been eliminated altogether and nothing would have been lost. Instead, it just caused the experience to be interrupted temporarily, and I had to briefly replay a section I had already done before.
Also, if anyone is expecting to be scared by the game, they’ll probably be disappointed. There’s a few half-hearted jump scares, but the game isn’t trying to be Five Nights at Freddy’s. That’s a good thing, though, because it manages to tell a thoughtful, mature story that has a fantastic conclusion.
While The Bunker is a rather straightforward adventure game, its FMV trappings are enough for it to stick out from the crowd. It’s proof that full-motion video doesn’t have to be campy in order to succeed, and can be just as viable as any other form of animation for the right type of game. Check it out if you’re looking to experience a solid story, and play something a bit different.
Review code for The Bunker provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.