The COVID-19 lockdown has caused many people to reconsider their career direction. And it seems as though some have decided to make the leap into video game development; at least, that’s the impression I get from all the new campaigns on Kickstarter recently.
It’s been a mixed bag for the platform over the past several years. Sometimes the video game category is empty, or stuffed with sub-par mobile games and ‘gangster shooters’ being made by kids still in secondary school. Then at others you’ll find several projects worthy of your backing, as has been the case for me over the past few weeks: I’ve now made pledges to over 40 campaigns and that number is likely to continue increasing.
My latest pledge is towards another entry in the adventure genre: Related, under development by three-person team FRACTALCATZ. It’s not a game I’d ever come across before the campaign appeared in my Kickstarter search results one morning even though the first of three chapters is already available for purchase at a small price on Steam. The reviews so far are very positive; players have praised the game for its creepy atmosphere and are looking forward to seeing how the story progresses.
So where does that story begin? Meet conjoined twins Jessica and Julia, who are locked in one body. The girls have been living in an orphan asylum since their early childhood and they don’t remember how they got there or whether they ever had a family. With the scornful attitude of the orphanage personnel and attacks by other children, the list of their troubles is long and although they have each other for support, they have conflicts just as all siblings do.
Fast-forward a few years and Related’s plot is now narrated by a grown-up Jessica. After suffering from a series of continuous nightmares, she decides to go back to the abandoned orphan asylum to try and collect her memories: will she find the answers to questions she has tried so hard to forget, and learn the biggest mystery about herself? Chapter one can be played for free until the Kickstarter campaign ends on 03 December 2020 so I took the opportunity to give it a go.
It’s just what you’d expect from a point-and-click in terms of gameplay and adventure fans will feel right at home. The environment can be explored and interacted with by clicking the mouse and objects collected are stored in your inventory, with the option of being able to examine some of them more closely for clues. Certain items require multiple clicks before anything happens; there were a couple of moments where I felt I was stuck, until I clicked on hotspots again and caused an action.
The movement speed is pretty slow in the scenes where you control Jessica as a grown-up and her movements are slightly uncoordinated. However, I got the impression this is deliberate rather than down to poor animation. You’re able to double-click to make her run in the flashbacks to her time as a child so her speed as an adult feels like a design choice. Perhaps this has something to do with the narrative and there are secrets about what happened to Jessica and Julia waiting to be uncovered.
The first chapter took around an hour to complete and contained several puzzles. The solutions for these all felt logical despite the surrounding plot and situations being rather creepy so, if they provide a feel for what’s coming up in the rest of Related, I’d say we’re in for an adventure which isn’t overly challenging and pulls you in with its story. It’s worth noting here that some of the objects involved are quite dark and include a bloody knife, so this probably isn’t going to be a game to let your young kids play.
But if you’re looking for a title with an eerie atmosphere, it’s worth checking out. There was something about the music and sound-effects which instantly put me on edge and made me almost hesitant to continue into the next scene for fear of what I’d discover next. As mentioned above, the Steam reviews so far have highlighted this aspect of the game, and this initial chapter is a great set-up for the coming episodes and getting to know the main characters without too much being given away.
In fact, the only worry I have right now is about the portrayal of mental health. What I’ve seen so far doesn’t give too much cause for concern as it seems there’s going to be more to the story, but consider the protagonists and setting – two girls trapped inside the same body and living in an orphan asylum – and you’ll see a situation ripe for clichés and tropes. I hope the developer handles this in a sensitive way and I’m willing to make my pledge to give them that opportunity.
At the time of writing, FRACTALCATZ have managed to raise around 10% of their £12,730 target. Head over to the Kickstarter page for more information or to become a backer before 03 December 2020, and you can stay up-to-date on progress by giving the team a follow on Twitter.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.