Critical Play: Mysteries

Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture

Developer: The Chinese Room, Santa Monica Studio

Director: Jessica Curry

Writer: Dan Pinchbeck

Platform: PlayStation 4, ‎Microsoft Windows‎

Target Audience: Teens and adults interested in the mystery and science-fiction genres and looking for experiential storytelling games.

Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture is a single-player mystery game. Gameplay involves the player operating the character from a first-person perspective with the ability to move around. Interaction with the world is generally point-and-click with the exception of glowing memory orbs that the player must click, hold, and slide across the screen. The mystery centers around the town of Yaughton, which is under quarantine ( :O ) due to an influenza outbreak, and the “pattern”, a cosmic event that has caused everyone to disappear.

The most notable aspect of the way in which this mystery is presented to the player is that there are no explicit puzzles to be solved. The environment is open-world, and the player can navigate freely around the town and inside buildings. The story is told through glowing memory orbs that display scenes from the past composed mostly of conversations and silhouettes. One main orb named Jeremy guides the player around the town to important locations in the story where other orbs replay past events. Additionally, there are radios that relay audio recordings by another scientist observing the pattern. The only thing for the player to “figure out” is what has happened in this town; there are no arbitrary puzzles that may break a player’s immersion. This creates an aesthetic narrative and exploration for the player as they become immersed in experiential storytelling and have the freedom to discover the story themselves. Though the player can interact with the orbs, they are not directly influencing the flow of the narrative, which makes the experience more reflective and pensive rather than active and cognitive.

One improvement to the navigation I would suggest is to remove Jeremy, the glowing orb, and make the other memory waypoints more noticeable as the player moves through the world. Having a guide detracts from the aesthetic of exploration as well as the desired sense that the player is alone. The environment should also be restructured in a way such that the waypoints are visible from one another so that this overt guidance isn’t necessary. Otherwise, the game focuses on its immersive storytelling extremely well. The audio scenes in the world create an embedded narrative that is baked with intrigue, wonder, and emotional weight. 

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