Review by Nick Whitcroft
The siren sounds. You frantically seize your children and hurl them (with an oddly metallic clatter) into your bomb shelter and cast your eyes desperately around the room for supplies. Time is drastically short and everything useful seems a world away. You scrabble for food and water and head underground as the bombs drop. You’re safe; at least for now.
60 Seconds, from Polish indie-devs Robot Gentleman, is a game that, upon reading about before its release, I was actually pretty excited about. A unique blend of black comedy, fast-paced resource gathering and choose-your-own-adventure gaming, in post-apocalyptic Fallout-esque world brought together by 3D cartoon visuals and hand-drawn artwork – it sounded fantastic. That’s why I tried so hard to love it.
Unfortunately, 60 Seconds is marred by a host of flaws that leave the end result feeling, whilst certainly still fun, a far cry from the polished, characterful adventure it has so much potential to be.
There are several gamemodes – essentially you have the option to choose to opt for the full game or to independently play through each of the two sections: the eponymous 60 second resource gathering race and the longer survival section down in the shelter. I’ll say from the offset, personally I found the latter far more captivating and, frankly, polished. The frustrating thing about the scavenging section really is how tacked on to the ‘main game’ it feels. It’s over so quickly that you never really have time to get over the glitchy pick-up mechanics, Ted’s frustratingly slow jog or the crashes of you running into the smallest of objects (I genuinely had to take my headphones off through this). Then, once you head underground, the switch from 3D to 2D feels oddly jarring - it’s understandable from a gameplay perspective, but somehow it just feels a tad forced.
This isn’t to say 60 Seconds is without its strengths. Once you come to in the bunker, your quest for survival is only just beginning. Unfortunately for you, Ted is the only member of the family with enough sense to stop playing the tuba and actually grab any supplies, so be ready to watch your loved ones wither and die if you didn’t stock up on enough food and water. Along with the obvious bare essentials, numerous other household items are integral to your survival – from a rifle to keep bandits and irradiated creatures at bay to a map to help direct your excursions to the surface.
The infuriating consequence of this is that, should you overlook something in your initial sweep of the house, you may well find yourself at a loss as the days linger on. In one particular playthrough, I neglected to take a pack of cards with me, seemingly the only way of signalling to the military that our home was populated. Despite surviving several months, we all perished in vain. This is the 60 Seconds’ biggest problem: it just feels a bit formulaic. Players of indie titles such as The Yawhg may relate to the way 60 Seconds falls down after the first chunk of playtime. It’s a great concept, and strangely addictive, but you soon find yourself well-versed in the various choices before you and it often becomes more a case of “do I have the allotted item to allow me to proceed with the obviously correct choice?” (to which the answer is all-too-often no). It’s this that severely impacts the game’s replayability and which saw me feeling slightly jaded when my time with 60 Seconds was done.
I’ll admit to still being rather charmed by the quirky title and maintaining a great deal of respect for what it sets out to do. It was a refreshing injection of life into a traditionally dark theme and the ambition of the studio – whose experience spans titles such as Fable and The Witcher right across to the films industry – definitely shines, but I couldn’t help feeling it lacked that little bit of depth in its choices that could have made it truly exceptional. It’s certainly more The Oregon Trail than This War Of Mine. One thing you can guarantee from 60 Seconds, however, is that you’ll be pinned down with it for a great deal longer than its name suggests. Expect to lose yourself for at least one 30-60 minute playthrough and come out the other side with a good handful of laughs. If this game has taught me one thing, it’s that sending your injured and severely malnourished son into the radioactive wasteland in the face of warring bandits can only end well – Little Timmy returned to us with an axe, nigh on a gallon of water and (the ballsy little fella) a chequers board (that’s draughts to us Brits); he wasn’t even missing a piece. To add insult to injury to his parents – who were currently quenching their thirst on his newfound spoils – he then asked if he could go out again (though the less said about that the better).
Stay tuned to The Midnight Gamer for the latest and greatest from the gaming world! 60 Seconds is developed and published by Robot Gentleman Studios. It’s available to buy now on Steam, with releases planned (but TBA) for Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Visit the official website for more details.