It’s not the kind of thing you often see in games these days.
During the first ten minutes of American Arcadia, I saunter and jump to the right side of the screen — you know, typical side-scrolling platform. Then suddenly I’m a different character and I see the world from the first person. Hey.
American Arcadia is the next game from Out of nowherea Madrid-based studio that broke through in 2020 with the Lovecraftian puzzle game call of the sea† After that debut, Out of the Blue remained relatively quiet until a 30-second teaser was released for American Arcadia in April. Earlier this month, at the Tribeca Festival, I had the chance to play a preview build. (Programming note: The demo crashed about 20 minutes later. This was the result, at least to my understanding, of a hardware problem. I was told I was pretty close to the end anyway.)
American Arcadiawhich has no release date but is in development for pc and consoles, is not a puzzle platformer. It’s more like a puzzler and a platform player. Set in a 70s-inspired retro future, it opens in media res, with an office worker named Trevor sitting in an interrogation room and recounting how he escaped. During these segments, told via flashback, you navigate your way through a huge office building.
But a few minutes later, a twist. You find out that Trevor doesn’t work for a nondescript company. He is an unwitting cast member on a reality TV show. †The Truman Show is an obvious comparison.) His best friend, Gus, has been, shall we say, removed from the cast, under the guise of “winning a vacation.” Trevor, reading between the lines, tries to escape. The perspective then shifts and you take on the role of Angela, a producer on the show.
It’s a lot to take in. Here’s a video overview:
“We wanted something different, and we came up with this cool idea to escape from a TV show, we thought it” [could have] one character alive inside the screen”, Tatiana Delgado, American Arcadia‘s creative director, told my box† “It made sense to distinguish them … We wanted to separate them with [a] metaphor.”
Of course, there are plenty of games that struggle with varying perspectives. Dating from the time of Zelda II† Golgo 13: Top Secret Episodeand The legend of the mystical ninja, developers have been experimenting with designing games around such a gimmick. For a while it would be, say, a side-scrolling platformer. Then you would switch to a top-down view.
This is much less common in modern games. (Yeah, some tent poles like) Grand Theft Auto V and various Elder Scrolls submissions let you play the game in both first- and third-person viewpoints, but that’s just a feature, not essential to the core gameplay.) Ubisoft did it in 2013 with the pirate history sim Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag† Most of black flag takes place in the past, an action game viewed in third-person. But that’s interrupted by a handful of exploration segments set in a 2010s office building, all of which are played in first person. I’m sure you’ll also point out a few games I’m missing in the comments.
For starters, some game engines – the toolkit developers used to make video games – are better. (We saw this with BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, which had a tumultuous production, in part because EA decided it would be developed on DICE’s proprietary Frostbite engine. Frostbite was a really good foundation for first-person games, less so for sprawling third-person RPGs.) But designing games for two perspectives also requires a flexible mindset and comes with other challenges.
“For a first person game, you can just create a room and fill it with stuff and you can explore,” Delgado said. “In a 2.5D game, you create a lot of things for a room that you can pass in 30 seconds. The biggest challenge is to create a higher level production that will be played in a shorter amount of time.”
American Arcadia has his cake and eats it too. From what I played, thanks to the shifted perspectives, you’re forced to slow down a bit in densely packed environments. As Trevor, I found myself trying to navigate an unlit room. The game then moved me to Angela. In a TV studio I had to block out a few cameras and break into a colleague’s office, where once I turned on the light, I moved back to Trevor, where I could actually see what I was doing and where I was doing it. needed. to go. It is a room that I have dealt with twice.
It wasn’t exactly the hardest problem to solve, but Delgado said that while American Arcadia is generally a bit less of a head scratcher than call of the sea, puzzles get more complex later in the game. Of course, that’s something that can’t be judged until the game comes out. †American Arcadia has no release date.) But at the very least it will feature something you don’t see very often these days.