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Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture Review

Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
SCE Santa Monica
The Chinese Room
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
August 11, 2015

The town is almost pristine. It isn’t decimated or destroyed. There are no smoking craters, blackened buildings, or burned corpses. No, this picturesque village sits in ideal tranquility; the birds twitter in the hedgerows and the sun shines brightly, bathing the blooming trees and golden fields of wheat in a pleasant, peaceful aura. And yet, something is terribly wrong. A thin tendril of smoke still curls from a recently abandoned cigar, a child’s bicycle leans casually against a tree, fully expecting the return of its owner. But there is no one. And there is no evidence of their disappearance aside from a few bloody scraps of rags, spotted in empty bedrooms and beside untouched glasses of lemonade.

You stand in the midst of the emptiness, an uneasy feeling nagging at your core. What has happened?

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture thrives on atmosphere and storytelling and concerning the former aspect, developer The Chinese Room hits a home run. This is a beautiful, poignant visual presentation, designed specifically to highlight the mystery at the center of the adventure. With nary an indication of violence or even general unrest, it’s a remarkably captivating graphical achievement. Not simply because the village and landscape in question is so wonderfully designed and appointed, but also because it represents the contrast that drives the production forward. It’s supposed to be this perfect. So perfect, it’s almost severe in its austerity. How could anything be wrong? The gorgeous visuals force you to ask this question, over and over.

The stellar graphics combine forces with the appropriately haunting score and voice performances. The interesting part is that if you choose to wander about on your own, rather than being a slave to the twisting ball of light you’re clearly supposed to follow, the audio become that much more powerful. When you go rogue, so-to-speak, the music peters out and the effects are limited to the occasional bird call and babbling brook. This only makes you more aware of the rock that sits like a slab of ice-cold concrete in your gut. Then, when you do encounter the snippets of story, delivered expertly by accomplished actors that deliver genuine emotion, you’re once again immersed in the task at hand. An excellent, fitting score is just the icing on the cake.

The game plays simply: You move with the left analog and inspect with the X button. It’s a simple, even simplistic, mechanic but we don’t require any further input commands. If the game was structured differently, we would, but The Chinese Room puts the emphasis squarely on the narrative and environment, as opposed to relying on continual player commands and freedom. However, it’s important to note that while the game can be described as linear, it’d be erroneous to say there is no freedom at all. In fact, as I said above, you can often wander far, away from the pulsating golden ball that you must follow in order to advance the story. I’d recommend exploring off the beaten path, too; not because of what you might find, but because it adds dimension to the experience.