The Bunker (Switch)

Cinematic terror comes to Switch!

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 05/03/2018 08:15 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Intriguing story; well acted; atmospheric and tense
Poison Mushroom for...
Not much gameplay; short length; minimal punishment for mistakes; hard to see in portable mode

There’s something truly wonderful about a good horror movie. Fear is such a visceral emotion, and when the creators behind a horror film can make their audience feel a sense of fear through their works, it’s an impressive achievement. Video games have been attempting to mimic that same formula for ages, but the results have always been a bit mixed. With its (poorly) acted opening sequence, the first Resident Evil was notable in its attempt to marry video games and horror films. At the end of the day, however, that was still more of a video game than a film. The Bunker swings the other way, delivering an experience that’s more of an interactive horror film than game, yet the results remain enjoyable.

Shot inside a real-life, decommissioned nuclear bunker located in Essex, England, The Bunker follows protagonist John, the Cold War-era shelter’s lone surviving inhabitant. Following a nuclear fallout, John and his mother found refuge in the military bunker, alongside a number of other survivors. Over time, mysterious events began to unfold, leading to the deaths of everyone else inside. Throughout the game, flashbacks show exactly how the other survivors began to die, while John struggles to patch a radiation leak in the present.

The first thing most players will notice about developer Splendy Games’ title is that it looks terrific. FMV games seemed to be the future of gaming at one point in the ‘90s, but the genre all but died after a number of poorly acted and executed games reduced the genre to little more than a punchline. This is where The Bunker most diverges from its predecessors: the production values are really terrific. The acting is strong throughout, and the cinematography is clever, using some great camera work to amplify tension. The Bunker is shot like a horror film and the developers made the most out of the haunting visuals of their real-life location. The team did an excellent job with some of the game’s practical effects, as well, with a couple moments that are downright wince-inducing.

As a horror title, The Bunker isn’t just tonally dark, it’s also quite literally dark. The titular location has plenty of dark corners and passageways, which help to ratchet up the feeling of isolation and dread. Unfortunately, that darkness also makes it one of the more difficult Switch games to truly play on the go, as the slightest bit of screen glare can make it impossible to see anything at all. Playing the system in darker areas will help, but it can be quite frustrating trying to find a good spot. As such, this is one title players might want to pop the system in the dock for.

While the setting and narrative are quite strong, players looking for an in-depth gameplay experience might find themselves a bit disappointed. Like our recently reviewed Detective Pikachu, The Bunker is a point-and-click adventure with minimal punishment for missing a button prompt. Unlike Nintendo’s electric mouse, John does face some slight consequence if players miss a button press, in the form of a Game Over. For the most part, however, these are very scarce; in most cases, the narrative will simply alter slightly instead, and when a Game Over does happen, it tends to be a minimal setback, at most. Unfortunately, prompts can be a bit easy to miss, as getting the targeting reticule in place with the joystick can take a bit of time if you don’t have it in the right spot when the timer starts counting down. Having just reviewed a game on 3DS, it’s a reminder that Switch could definitely use a stylus of its own.

The game‘s movie trappings even extend to The Bunker’s runtime: the title can be finished off within just a couple of hours. There are some small trinkets that can be collected, in the form of hand-carved figures John made as a child and puzzle pieces. Players obsessed with collecting everything might be able to extend the game’s length a little, but they don’t add much to the overall experience. On one hand, the title doesn’t really need to be any longer; the finale wraps up all of its loose ends in a satisfying fashion, but some players will wish the experience lasted a bit longer. Still, the title’s $12.99 asking price isn’t all that different from the cost of most movie tickets and, at its heart, The Bunker basically is a film.

The Bunker won’t appeal to players looking for a long, deep experience. It’s short, and the interactive elements are sparse, with little punishment for making any mistakes. Horror film buffs will likely appreciate the game’s strong narrative and its atmospheric tension, though. If you fall into the latter category, The Bunker is certainly worth checking out on Switch.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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