Sunday, December 3, 2023

American Arcadia has all the markings of a future indie darling

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The 2D platform and first-person puzzle genres are both pretty much played. De Super Mario Bros. 3 for platformers a Portal for first-person puzzles, it is unlikely that there will be many surprises left in each genre individually. So why not mix them together like American Arcadia do you do

The next game by Spanish developer Out of the Blue and publisher Raw Fury is about a typically unsuspecting worker trying to escape from Arcadia. That place seems like a capitalist utopia but is actually insane The Truman Show-like a reality show where unpopular characters or those who find out too much die. American Arcadia a compelling story and genre mashup left the biggest impression on me of anything at this year’s Tribeca Festival.

Inside Arkady

My demo started with Trevor, a lazy and nerdy worker who was questioned about his attempts to flee Arkady. This immediately set up an air of plot and gave the demo (and presumably the full game) a clever framing device. I then saw how this whole failure began. Trevor works for megacorp INAC as a humble office worker helping run a supercomputer named Ada.

Trevor comes to work one day to discover that his friend Gus has earned a full-expense-paid trip to another country, but as he works, the devices around him are hacked, and a mysterious benefactor tells him that Gus is dead and that he “too He’ll soon die if he doesn’t run in. Obviously, this frightens Trevor, who follows the instructions of that mysterious guardian angel to the back room to find that there’s not a supercomputer there, but a show stage instead.

While playing as Trevor, American Arcadia acts as a simple 2D cinematic puzzle platformer. He has a heavy jump and usually needs to push or pull objects into place to help him climb high enough or jump long enough to progress. Those who have played games like it Internal before knowing the deal.

Soon into his escape, we learn that the person helping him is named Angela and that she can help him by hacking into cameras to change the environment and help Trevor move forward. For example, she can move a light backstage so Trevor can see where he is going. This first turn of the game reminds me of Republica game I adore that is also about helping someone break free from a predominant capitalist totalitarian society.

While Republic was a third-person hidden game, the formula works just as well with a 2D cinematic platform, and is the first indication that this game is far from simple. I also didn’t have to wait long for the next wild game turnaround to come out. As Angela hacks Trevor’s card to get him access to areas he shouldn’t be, it stops working, and guards working for INAC become aware of his impending escape.

Change in perspective

Up to this point, the American Arcadia was just a platformer, but when Trevor is about to be caught, Angela gets out of her seat to dominate the server room herself. That’s when American Arcadia shockingly becomes a first-person puzzle game. The wide, cinematic shots and camera gameplay elements of the platform segments already made me feel like an observer of Trevor’s bad day, and this Angela segment helped cement that feeling.

The change in perspective really puts me in the shoes of stage technician Angela as she panickedly tries to help Trevor. The puzzles in the section were not very difficult. I just had to walk up to three cameras and loop their camera footage and then enter a code that I could see through a window. However, the bones of a great first-person puzzler are here.

The previous game of Developer Out of the Blue, Call of the Sea, is one of the most underrated puzzle games of the past two years. As such, the developers have a place to build on an already solid puzzle base and make the puzzles more complex and satisfying to solve. Angela’s efforts finally allow Trevor to get to the roof of the INAC building, but he is still being chased.

Angela holds her phone as she tries to help Trevor in American Arcadia.

The final chase of the demo was particularly memorable, as I had to use my camera to control powers to swing a crane, climb on it, and swing it back so that Trevor could escape his pursuers. My demonstration ended mid-jump while Trevor tried to jump into a pool. While Trevor obviously survives that jump, it left me wanting more so I could see the rest of Angela and Trevor’s doomed escape and how he is later captured (at least temporarily).

I’m also excited to see how Out of the Blue expands on the first-person puzzle segments like Angela and how often they intersect with Trevor’s platforming. We’ve seen cinematic 2D platforms and first-person puzzles both well executed individually before. But merging the two genres, Out of the Blue creates a unique adventure that doesn’t quite resemble any other game out there. If the story goes on, American Arcadia will be all the indie darling when it launches.

American Arcadia is in development for computer and consoles.

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