Developed by Robot Gentleman Studios
Available on PC through Steam
Not classified by ESRB (Appropriate for 12+)
Here’s a game that is nicely in line with my interests. I’m a writer, and therefore eternally captivated by daydreams, possibilities, and invisible worlds. That’s of course why indie videogames have always landed on that soft little patch of grass in my heart. All of the little gaming studios are looking to be the cinderella story of the year: no money and big dreams. There’s a little Polish gaming duo (Robot Gentleman) who are the creative energy behind “60 Seconds!. Their humble, yet well-constructed website proclaims proudly that they are invested in “creat[ing] captivating games with unconventional stories”. Honestly, I don’t doubt that for a second. Put aside for a moment the fact that they’re Polish and have decided to create a game that is based on 1950s post-apocalyptic America, I give them credit for working for a captivating story through a familiar caricature.
At its best, 60 Seconds! is no more than a gamer’s maybe 10 minute commitment while resolving a family’s hasty choices following a nuclear blast. I enjoy that the game is both casual and succinct. At the title screen, the cartoonish and relatable suburban American home appears. A side note: I have noticed that this screen will change time to time during login or after a runthrough of the game (at one point I saw a pizza on the roof of the home and appreciated the Breaking Bad reference).
There are two portions of the full game, which is labeled as “Apocalypse!”. The first of these modes is “Scavenge”, followed by “Survival”. If for some reason you’re not in the mood for committing to the full game (such, a commitment, amirite?), or if you were interested in practicing either of the skills of scavenging the home or surviving in the shelter, the game offers both of those modes isolated from each other. In addition to the game modes, the difficulty of each mode allows the player to decide whether they would be better off surviving Little Boy, Fat Man, or Tsar Bomba.
The introduction to gameplay and controls are aptly kept within the theme of nuclear survival: an atomic drill. This drill allows the player to understand both portions of the game before dropping the real bombs. Prior to being allowed to gather objects and people in your home, you have mere moments to survey the current condition of Ted’s house (you get used to the very cookie-cutter layout, since it never changes) for all of the different survival-necessary items that you’ll be taking with you on your “atomic adventure”.
These items are always consistent in type, but they are always differently dispersed throughout the home, creating the necessary element of randomness for the game. In the home are many cans of soup (the family really hates soup a couple weeks into survival) and water, as well other supplies like a medkit, a board game, playing cards, a rifle, ammunition, a gas mask, a radio, a Boy Scout handbook, a can of bug spray, a map of the area, a flashlight, and an axe. As well as necessary objects, you also have Ted’s family. His traditional nuclear family consists of his simple-minded son, Timmy, his large tuba-toting daughter, Mary Jane, and his saucy redheaded wife, Dolores.
There are 60 total seconds in which to grab objects necessary for survival. For each of the different difficulties of bombs being dropped you have a different buffer prior to your sixty seconds in order to plan based on randomized objects. In the case of the Little Boy difficulty, there are thirty seconds prior, with less on the harder difficulties.
During the collection phase, you have four slots indicated by Ted’s hands (he has… four?) in which you can carry certain objects. For instance, one can of soup takes up a single carrying slot, whereas Mary Jane takes up three separate ones (yes, she’s huge). This additional dimension in prioritization of your objects makes your decisions slightly more complex. While the space in your bunker is infinite, there are only so many hands and so much time with which to grab necessities. Therefore, while rushing about your house and crashing into stuff like a out-of-control bumper car (seriously, every object that gets knocked around by you makes a massively overdone racket), you choose which objects are grabbed in what order based on their size and distance apart. Once you have filled your four hands, you throw everything down into the bunker hatch and return to scavenging until time runs out (you have to make it to the bunker zone before detonation as well).
The game’s meat is undoubtedly within the survival story. In that perilous initial minute, Ted experiences what I would consider the necessary “dice roll”. All of the random elements of the game, the distribution of objects allows the player to experience the following chapter through their own luck and prioritization of essentials. During the survival phase there is no physical movement component remaining, rather the screen is fixed on the family members that are currently surviving within the bunker. Within each day, the player will review a written log and assess your family’s current status while evaluating remaining items and rationing your dwindling supplies. The setting of the room will only change as you work through the decisions of the day, each day altering both the room and its contents based on events that have transpired.
An example of a particular day might be that the screen returns from its blackened state to show you Ted’s family, an exploded rifle, and a bright green glowing cockroach. The story tells you what broke the rifle and summoned the Rad Roach, and you need to make decisions to adequately conserve what remains in order to prolong your chances of survival. The family will begin to deteriorate over time, regardless of your good (or awful) intentions. Whether they slowly start becoming crazed due to a lack of games within the bunker, or they lose the battle of life due to starvation or dehydration, there are a number of different inevitabilities for your family.
Within the scope of my playthroughs, I experienced both really brief stays in the bunker (forgot to grab any family members, just lots of soup and water) and found myself getting driven away by vagrants. I did, on the very easiest mode of survival, manage to get rescued by the military after a gruelling 53 days of survival. Strangely enough, I didn’t believe that I was going to win that round because I took my entire family and very few supplies. To my greatest surprise, the largest of Ted’s progeny decided to be an absolute champion and go on not one, but three successful expeditions into the outside wasteland. Not only did she return with a gas mask (she was wandering without one for who knows how long), but a map, a gun with ammo, a radio, a card game, soup, AND water. Note to self: The fat girl who carries a tuba is the best rescue choice.
The game sets in with a simple, yet cleverly articulated story that combines wonderful Choose Your Own Adventure elements with dark humor that the genre of choice is well suited for. After all, if you are left to your own devices, what abysmal ending will you meet? Luckily, the game keeps the content tame for the most part, and any imagery that is graphic is related to the deterioration of your family the longer their magical journey in the bunker goes on. I won’t go into details about specific plot lines in this review since the game is short enough. I wouldn’t want to spoil it other than to say, whether you make good choices or bad ones, you’ll be given compelling answers to your decisions.
Despite all the good there is to say about the game, there are still a few things that cause me to take a second to think about decisions made by the developers. Firstly, I’m curious as to why 60 Seconds! wasn’t developed as a mobile game. Understandably, certain resources need to be pulled in order to develop a mobile game, but in many ways I feel that the game is well suited to be developed on a mobile platform. Truly, I only felt this way after one playthrough or two, because I realized the game wouldn’t last me forever and I wouldn’t be committing hours on end to its mastery. However, if the game were to be on my phone, I’d be able to sit and play through my odds of surviving the apocalypse before my dentist’s appointment.
Other than the mobile possibilities, I became aware during the scavenging portion of the game of a strange story choice that I feel was not well explained. As you’re already aware, a good deal of the randomized survival objects are dispersed throughout the home. Fair point, homes have objects. However, how can it be that Ted and his family had the foresight to build a bomb shelter within their own house, in the CENTER of their own house, yet they are unwilling to pack it full of supplies such as the gas mask, bug spray, or maybe some food or water? So maybe Ted and his family aren’t great at thinking ahead, or maybe he was in the process of moving his scattered objects when the bomb happens to drop. I’ll let it slide but, how unlucky is Ted?
To sum up: 60 Seconds! is a brief, fun game that leaves me wanting more. I suppose the same could be said for other indie titles; little glimmers of magic that shine through the dark forest, leaving me ever-chasing down games that could and should exist. I’m an eternal optimist though, and if this game is any indication, I’ll be watching for more clever additions from Robot Gentleman in the future.
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