I talked a lot at Gamescom, whether it was with developers or mumbling to myself as I typed stuff in the evening. Talking to the developers in particular is a wonderful thing, especially when you’re playing their game and it resonates with you. But getting to grips with an early playthrough of American Arcadia made me pretty much silent, to the point where I had to apologize to the developers for being so quiet.
And I wasn’t rude; far from there! I was so engrossed in the mix of side-scrolling platformer and first-person puzzler. Keep this on watch, because I think it’s going to be a real hit when it lands.
Amercian Arcadia is developed by Out Of The Blue Games, the folks behind the first-person puzzle game Call Of The Sea. This time, they’ve ditched the 1930s South Pacific for a retro-futuristic ’70s metropolis brimming with yellows and reds and jovial optimism. The citizens of Arcadia live happy and fulfilling lives! Except it’s all a huge lie, as I discovered while playing Trevor Hills, an average office worker, who went to work at Arcadia as usual, to spend a very unusual time.
Without giving too much away, Trevor discovered that his mate had mysteriously been fired from his job, and an unfamiliar voice warned him that if he didn’t escape, his life would be in danger. Some We Happy Few vibes, here. The first sequence I played was shot like a documentary, with cutscenes of Trevor in an interrogation room, who would then rush towards him running for his life, before returning to the present, all without be a confused mess. It was a nifty operation, which was captured beautifully, as the camera pans or zooms out to accentuate Arcadia’s scale.
I was really gripped from the moment I put myself in Trevor’s shoes. American Arcadia walked me through effortlessly, with gorgeous environments and a strong voice actor cast (people from Firewatch, Spiderman 1 & 2 and Cyberpunk to name a few) helping to make it look like authenticity to the drama that unfolded. One section saw me walk into a dark warehouse, complete with malfunctioning spotlights inspired by the ever-odd 2D platformer Inside.
What I hadn’t expected was the old switcheroo. That weird voice I heard at the start? I could control them in first person, as they aided Trevor in his grand escape plan from a dark office overlooking Arcadia. The rain lashed against the windows and I watched the feeds from the security cameras that followed each hallway. I had to disable those cameras and then get the passcode to get into the control room. With that, I could manipulate the lights in Trevor’s warehouse and help him see where he needed to go. Genius. And more perspective change was to come, as Trevor went into a sprint, and I needed to swing him just out of the cops’ reach by running a crane at the last second, or cutting off the roads for the bad guys to catch him.
All the while, I was practically silent as I bounced between platforming sections as Trevor and first-person puzzles as his mysterious ally. From what I’ve played, American Arcadia is shaping up to be one of those experiences that you’ll devour in a session or two. It’s a clever, cinematic take on a puzzle with real heart and a story that I’m desperate to complete.
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