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GAME REVIEW : Everybody’s gone to the Rapture

August 20, 2015

Everybody’s gone to the Rapture is one of those games which forces us to question how games should be reviewed. It falls into a genre that has become unaffectionately known as a ‘Walking Simulator’, since that is the only action the player performs in the game besides from occasionally opening a door or turning on a radio. Other examples of the ‘Genre’ include ‘Gone Home’ and ‘The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’, so if you’ve played any of those then you know what you’re getting into here.

The controls are simple enough. The two thumb sticks are simply labeled ‘Keep looking’, and ‘Keep walking’. But obviously, the cynical term ‘Walking Simulator’ doesn’t do any of these games any justice. You need to approach these kinds of titles as you would approach a movie. And perhaps, then, it’s better to review it as if it were a movie too.

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In that sense, it’s comparable to the work of Shane Carruth, director of ‘Primer’ and ‘Upstream Colour’, who tells complex and intricate stories by only showing you the most interesting moments, and leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks.

The setting in ‘Rapture’ is a small village in Shropshire, immediately after some kind of ‘event’ that has rendered the place deserted. The player, as a kind of virtual voyeur, has a free reign to explore the village and the surrounding area. You find yourself completely alone, aside from an ethereal, sentient light, which guides you towards ‘Flashbacks’. Scenes played out by actors comprised of lights, depicting moments captured in the days and weeks before ‘The event’.

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It’s in these flashbacks where the emotional ‘meat’ of the game is to be found. The individual stories of the villagers deal with issues of conflict, abandonment, community, coping and separation, with each one culminating in an emotional crescendo. The conclusion to village clergyman Father Jeremy’s story proves particularly impactful as an opening chapter. To go into any real depth on the stories would do you, the reader, a disservice, as this is a game of discovery, and it’s better that you discover it yourself.

Most of the villager’s stories appear to end too soon, like they’re in the middle of some unfinished business, and that in itself is very powerful. After all, there’s no ‘Good’ time to get ‘Raptured’! There are lessons in the game, and there are questions. And many of these questions remain unanswered at the conclusion of the game, leaving the player to make their own mind up. Like the obvious conflict between science and religion, which so is easy to have an opinion on when it’s not happening. The game forces you to ask yourself where you would stand if it were?

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Another comparison I’d make is with the playwright Samuel Beckett. Much of his work is situational, and lacks a plot. Asking you not to concentrate on what’s happening, but on how it makes you feel. In the case of ‘Rapture’, it made me want to hug all my loved ones, and to phone people who I hadn’t spoken to in years. And I think that alone makes it worth the asking price.

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