Monday, April 9

Review: The Bunker [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Games made from a string of full-motion-video clips were all the rage at the dawn of the CD-ROM era. Without the space limitations of cartridges or floppies developers who were looking to tell a certain type of story quickly began experimenting with what video could convey. Unfortunately at the time the quality of the video was questionable, at best, the acting typically ventured somewhere between bad and somewhat silly, and load times were an absolute bear. That’s where The Bunker returning to that style, but obviously with substantially better technology backing it, caught my eye.

You’ll play the game as John, the apparent last survivor who was born in a nuclear bunker pretty well at the beginning of an atomic war. While his life was already quite limited within the confines of this space with the loss of his mother and then everyone else apparently being gone has left him truly alone. At the beginning you’ll acquaint yourself with his daily routine, taking his meds, checking his radiation level, doing a system check, eating… lather rinse and repeat. It’s when something doesn’t check out, and that he needs to leave the comfort of his strict routine to go elsewhere in the bunker, that things begin.

As he makes his way around he begins to have flashbacks to conversations and events that he witnessed, and you’ll stumble upon a variety of journals and log entries that begin to flesh out what was happening to the other people who were down there. People getting sick, worries over how long rations would hold out, and hints of morale beginning to slide are peppered about… much in the way you would imagine would happen in such a situation. It’s how the game plays out from that point that makes it interesting.

In order for the game to work at all, especially since the majority of it is acted by a single person, it’s crucial that you make a connection to John and his situation. Thankfully all of the acting in the game is quite good so I didn’t find it very hard to get immersed into the world he’s trying to survive in. Of course since the video isn’t trying to load from a disk everything is pretty snappy and there aren’t major delays, and overall the video quality is good, not showing significant signs of compression or artifacts that would distract from the experience. If it wasn’t obvious be warned that given the nature of the format of the game overall things are quite linear, though there are some collectibles to find along the way and a small provision for some variety towards the end.

Since it isn’t a very long experience (maybe 2 - 3 hours, total) I suppose you could go back through to try to find everything or see how it could play out differently but I found my one run to be satisfying enough. Overall, if you’re down for an experience in this bleak sort of setting, with a story that intrigues and an outcome that may telegraph a bit but is still interesting to watch unfold, The Bunker is a very different kind of experience you haven’t yet had on the Switch.

Score: 7

  • Well-acted
  • Video quality is very good
  • Some motivation to return more than once for collectibles

  • Generally a linear experience
  • Relatively minimal interaction
  • Since the experience is in learning the story replay value is limited