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The Bunker – high-concept live-action story-game

A live-action experiment in game form

Price: $3.99 / £3.99
Version: 1.2
Size: 2.64 GB
Developer: Channel 4
Platform: iPhone and iPad

Amongst all the app clones and ports and rehashes, it’s lovely when an app or game really tries to do something different. The Bunker, from British broadcaster Channel 4, achieves this spectacularly with a puzzle/adventure game that uses real, professionally shot film footage.

This is how it starts… with the birth of a man that will end up alone in the bunker

A live-action thriller, The Bunker could have so easily gone wrong. It’s by no means perfect, but the secret to its success is its narrative structure. The game features just one man who’s alone in a bunker following a devastating nuclear war. It wasn’t always this way, before there were army sergeants, doctors, and, his own mother. The game opens with the man’s birth, inside the bunker, and as the intro unfolds, you see him 30 years later, alone.

Helping the man take his vitamins

Your initial tasks are to ensure he completes his daily checks for radiation leaks, and make sure he takes his vitamins. It’s all a bit passive here, and our main criticism of the game is just that – there’s not a lot of decision making. It’s like someone had an idea for a short film and then explored ways to actively involve an audience.

In that regard, The Bunker would be a phenomenal concept for VR, but until that’s a widespread concept, particularly on mobile, this kind of live-action crossed with choice-making just becomes a little boring, tedious even, as you sit and watch the video clips of the man opening drawers. Do we really need to see him close them again?

Finding items isn’t too tricky – just make sure to check each room

But what keeps you engaged is the creepy soundscapes, and the back story that evolves via flashbacks each time you enter a new area. You’ll see the characters from the intro again as they discuss what has happened and the perils they faced which eventually led to this man’s forced solitary. The acting is often a bit ropey (though the main character is played by Adam Brown who played Ori in The Hobbit,) but the direction, lighting and breaks between these teasing scenes keeps you playing.

The game has a dark, moody color palette which is particularly engaging

In that regard, it’s not a title to pick up and play when you have a spare five minutes, rather one you can play through in a handful of longer sessions. It’s not a super-vast game, but it provides enough narrative and surprises to keep you going – considering it’s cheaper than a movie, we’d say that’s some value right there.

There’s not much in the way of puzzles, mostly just finding items

By no means perfect, The Bunker remains a great addition to the App Store as it entertains and intrigues those that are a sucker for a good narrative.