Mankind has long been obsessed with the idea that the end of the world is nigh. Zombies, disease, meteor strike and aliens are clear fan favourites. I personally find the idea that our own aggression and technical advances will be our downfall, to be much more likely. Nuclear war and its fallout have been depicted in games and films, countless times, so when I find a survival title that takes a dark, yet comical approach to this genre I find it intriguing. Add in a rare mix of 2 stand alone gameplay methods which perfectly reflect the emotional balance of the situation, and I believe that we could have found ourselves a game that’s worth investing some time in.
Polish developers Robot Gentleman have created 60 Seconds. The apocalypse survival game that mixes a unique art style with a dark comic approach. It will have you assessing your life choices, rationing your supplies, and questioning which member of your family you don’t mind losing all to gain a few more cans of food, or a couple of extra litres of water. After all, we know that there is no I in team, and one small sacrifice could benefit the whole family unit. Set in the Cold War era you are given little warning to gather your family, and as many personal belongings that you can carry. You must make it to the protection of your underground shelter, from here your survival adventure will begin.
It’s very unusual that a developer will use two juxtaposing gameplay mechanics to drive their idea and story forward. It’s even rarer that when this is attempted that it works successfully. In this instance, the gamble paid off. You open every standard game in your typical family home. The kids and wife are busy around the house, a stopwatch is ticking in the right hand corner, you have a small grace period to observe your surroundings and identify any items that could be useful. A siren will sound, and as titled you have 60 seconds to gather everything you need to survive, and ideally you won’t forget your family. Each playthrough the collectable items are placed in different locations, so no start is ever the same. You must choose what you believe will give you the best chance of survival. Do you take an axe, but leave some tinned food? Grab that radio, which enables you to hear the rescue call from the government, but leave the map which will help you to pinpoint the rendezvous point. Ultimately the choice is yours, but, something has to give. Will you be lucky enough to make the right choices? Only time will tell.
Once you move past the frantic open scene, you enter a rather sombre and slow paced world inside your bunker. Strategy and decision making are the key elements to your survival, planning and a lot of luck will be required to reach the end game. In your new found prison, I mean shelter, all your actions are controlled with journal entries, you must choose how you wish to survive. Simple yes, no decisions will be presented to you, depending on your answer you will either aid or hinder your adventure. With only limited supplies available you must decide at what point you will venture into the wasteland that was previously your neighbourhood. Choose a survivor, then equip them with an item to best survive the new world. Do you equip them with a weapon to survive an attack? Give them a map to navigate the landscape easier? Or ensure they survive the radiation by providing a gas mask? The choice is yours, each has its own benefit and requires a fair amount of luck. Even the best equipped adventurer gambles their lives when they leave the protection of the shelter, but surely the risk is heavily outweighed by the reward?
While most survival games require mainly planning and a small amount of luck, I found this one to be both frustrating and rewarding in equal measures. No matter how much I planned to gather the best resources, luck very rarely seemed to be on my side, a random in house illness, or a wrong decision would always lead me to the same outcome, death! I’d send one member of the family to explore for much needed provisions, and the map I armed them with would be needed the next day to help the group escape. Life isn’t always fair, but in 60 Seconds, it’s just brutal. The rewards came when you least expected them, a small act of kindness, and you are showered with items, all of a sudden the doom and gloom clouds that once lingered over your bunker dissipate, you can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. This, “by chance” nature of play will put a number of people off playing. There is a feeling of injustice when you technically haven’t done anything wrong, and still your whole world comes crashing down around you. It is a bitter pill to swallow, some will find it a true turn off and will not want to look back. Combine this with the extremely tough challenge and achievement list, and this is a game for the real hardcore survival player.
A number of modes are on offer to keep you wanting to play, you can open with the government boot camp, a tutorial where orders are barked at you by an American army officer, the text narration explains the basic fundamentals, and sets you up perfectly for future attempts. Once this is completed, you are free to select how you wish to play, you can choose a classic round which embodies both the house scavenge mode, and bunker survival, or you can skip straight to your shelter, where you will be gifted a predetermined list of resources. Finally, you have the challenge section, which has you attempting different tasks all within the 60 second window. I found the latter mode to be extremely taxing, though enjoyable. With the time frame being so short, failure didn’t really bother me as it didn’t take long to restart the stage and attempt the task again.
An extremely unique art style has been used throughout, it reminded me of a child’s cartoon program mixed with early DC Comic books. All the imagery felt nostalgic, and screamed 1950’s Americana. The colours used are bright and vivid, when running around the house you will inevitably knock into the furniture, and this is met with a comic book style POW or WHAM, a delightful touch that gave the visuals an unusual element. When you find yourself cooped up in your bunker the character designs are great, as the situation gradually gets worse, the condition of your family of survivors deteriorates very quickly, the noticeable signs of stress and illness really makes you empathise with them. From fresh skinned and clean humans to sickly green, greasy shadows of their former selves in a matter of days. It would be tragic if it wasn’t so amusingly depicted.
Like with the graphics and gameplay, the audio does a fantastic job of setting the scene and it embodies the emotions perfectly. During the scavenging section the high tempo and constant beat fill you with panic, the sound of the siren, and the inevitable explosion of the atomic bomb clearly denotes the start and end point whilst maintaining the theme. Very little sound is used in the shelter, this may seem odd for some players, but for me it added to the suspense, the occasional crackle of a Geiger counter reminding you that, though you are safe, it’s only a matter of time before death comes knocking at your ummmm bunker door!
With the gameplay being split into two distinct styles, the control methods required were always going to be unique to each section. When gathering resources the controls tended to be a little clumsy, I would like to put this down to the feeling of urgency, but it really wasn’t. I was unable to identify any way that you could make your character break into anything faster than a slow meander, it’s not like your house is about to be blown apart by a nuke or anything! The constant colliding with household items slowed you down considerably, but it was almost impossible not to hit them. With only a small amount of space to carry items and family members to the bunker entrance I was constantly left scratching my head as to why they wouldn’t walk themselves to safety, perhaps the impending doom froze them to the spot, who knows. The second stage in contrast was exceptionally easy to work with, with the button mapping layered in a translucent manner over the areas of interest, there really was very little that could go wrong.
The dark humour, unique art and unusual gameplay style, ensures that there is very little to dislike, and a game that I would recommend to hardcore survivalist fans, and the casual gamer who likes a hefty challenge. The feeling that the world is against you as your luck runs out does make you feel bitter for a short amount of time, but that’s the nature of the beast in the survival genre. With each playthrough potentially being under 20 minutes, this really is a title that you can pick up and put down between other games, making this more accessible to players who have limited play time available to them. With so many other survival titles requiring you to dedicate your life to them in order to succeed, 60 seconds has refreshingly created a casual, albeit challenging adventure that will have you questioning every decision you make, so why not strap yourself in and enjoy the blast that is the end of the Cold War. Make your plans and stick to them, I’m sure in time the US government will come to rescue you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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60 Seconds! Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
A Cold War era apocalypse survival game that has a dark and humorous twist. How you survive is up to you! Can you survive an atomic bomb? You have 60 Seconds to prepare, so what are you waiting for?
The split gameplay mechanic works really well.
Nice cartoon graphics.
Lack of audio adds to the atmosphere.
High replay factor.
Controls in the scavenge mode are a bit clumsy.
Difficulty in reaching the end game, will put off a number of gamers.
Luck and chance being a main contributory factor will frustrate hardcore fans.