I talked a lot at Gamescom, either with the devs or muttering delusionally while writing stuff late at night. Talking to developers especially is a wonderful thing, especially when you’re playing their game and it resonates with you. But getting down to business with an early part of American Arcadia left me mostly silent, to the point where I had to apologize to the developers for being so quiet.
And he wasn’t being rude; away from there! He was so engrossed in the mix of side-scrolling platformer and first-person puzzler. Keep an eye on this, because I think it’s going to be a real hit when it lands.
Amercian Arcadia is being developed by Out Of The Blue Games, the folks behind the first-person puzzler Call Of The Sea. This time, they’ve ditched the 1930s South Pacific for a 1970s retro-futuristic metropolis brimming with yellows and reds and jovial optimism. The citizens of Arcadia live a happy and fulfilling life! Except it’s all a big fat lie, as I found out while playing as Trevor Hills, an average office worker, who went to work in Arcadia as usual, just to have a very unusual time.
Without spoiling too much, Trevor found out that his partner was mysteriously fired from work and an unknown 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 scenes of Trevor in an interrogation room, then running up to save his life, before returning to the present, all without being a confusing mess. It was a deft operation, shot beautifully, as the camera panned or zoomed out to accentuate the scale of Arcadia.
It genuinely grabbed me from the moment I stepped into Trevor’s shoes. American Arcadia guided me effortlessly, with beautiful environments and a cast of strong voice actors (people from Firewatch, Spiderman 1 and 2, and Cyberpunk, to name a few) that helped lend an air of authenticity to the drama that unfolded. One section saw me enter a dark warehouse, with malfunctioning spotlights inspired by the ever-unsettling 2D platformer Inside.
What he hadn’t anticipated was the old change. That strange voice I heard at first? She could control them in the first person, as they helped Trevor in his grand escape plan from a dingy office overlooking Arcadia. Rain lashed against the windows and I watched the footage from the security cameras that tracked each corridor. I had to disable these cameras and then get the key code to access the control room. With that, he could manipulate the lights in Trevor’s warehouse and help him see where he needed to go. Genius. And more of the perspective change was to come, when Trevor started running, and he needed to swing him out of range of the cops by spinning a crane at the last second, or cut off routes for the bad guys to catch him.
Meanwhile, I was mostly silent as I jumped 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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