I really enjoy going into a game knowing very little about it, and it was with optimistic enthusiasm that I downloaded Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture. I wasn’t familiar with developer The Chinese Room’s other work (Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs), but I had heard good things about the studio. From what I could gather I was probably in for a short, story-based adventure most likely steeped in a bit of mystery and intrigue. However, what I got was one of the slowest, most insufferably boring experiences of my entire gaming life. When the credits rolled I felt nothing but a cold sense of dissatisfaction coupled with relief that it was finally over.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture puts you into the shoes of a spectre that wanders the idyllic town of Yaughton, which for all intents and purposes appears to have been utterly abandoned all but a few moments ago. In the bright sunny daylight, a heavy air of mystery lingers. What happened to all the people? If they were taken by force, why is it that there are so few signs of struggle? But perhaps the greatest mystery of all is: Why the hell am I walking so damn slowly?! Your spectre’s painfully slow movement is something that almost needs to be witnessed to be believed, and although it isn’t the game’s only shortcoming, it weaves itself into absolutely every aspect, completely ruining any joy that might have been gleaned from the experience.
Now it must be said that I am a major supporter of story-driven games, and I truly believe in the power of games to deliver powerful narratives in a unique way. Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead and Irrational’s Bioshock series are prime examples of the perfect union of superb writing and the participatory nature of gaming managing to transcend the bounds of convention in storytelling. I also love emotionally-driven games like Journey that simply focus on a sensory experience and how a game feels rather than having to tell a grand story. So it was with great disappointment that I trudged (ever so slowly) through Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, an experience that to me fails completely as both a game, and ultimately, as a story.
The bulk of the game has you following orbs of light around, reliving memories of the town’s occupants as you piece together the mystery of where they all went. The town of Yaughton is simply stunning to look at, and really feels like an actual small town. Although it is devoid of sentient life, the town is bristling with vibrant colour and personality, with the things left behind by its former inhabitants existing as reminders of ordinary people with ordinary lives who lived and loved. What a pity then that the only way to interact with this world is to answer the occasional phone or listen to the occasional recording. I felt like some sort of glorified ghostly receptionist as I wandered the empty streets, looking for something to press X next to. Going off the beaten path will reveal stories and memories that you might not see otherwise, yet here in lies the conundrum. Because the movement is so excruciatingly slow, it’s almost like you are punished for exploring. After walking at a snail’s pace through a few pretty, yet ultimately uninteresting paddocks, only to then have to drag myself back to the main road, I quickly began to lose interest. It is my firm belief that if you were to move any slower in this game you’d probably go back in time. As I began to lose interest in exploring, the setting consequentially interested me less and less, and the allure of the mystery waned. My glacial speed of perambulation had lulled me into an almost catatonic sense of apathy.
The lives and memories you see acted out as you potter from one location to the next oscillate between intriguing and Days of Our Lives-type melodrama. Sometimes you’ll just stumble across a memory and it will begin to be re-enacted, other times you’ll have to manoeuvre a glowing ball to the left or right by tilting the controller. This is seriously the game’s only other mechanic besides pressing X every now and then. I’m not sure if I was supposed to care about who was sleeping with who, but I most certainly didn’t. The game is so plodding in its pace, and so unbelievably passive in its execution, that I felt absolutely nothing for the characters or their plights. I will say that the overall tale is relatively interesting, but unfortunately long before the final scenes played out I had completely checked out emotionally. Many times I was reminded of the game’s startling similarities to the Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and of how superior that game was in every way, shape and form.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture presents a beautiful world that you are forced to crawl through at an alarmingly slow pace, and is definitely “look but don’t touch.” Personally, I like my games to have more actual game in them, and my interactive storytelling to have more interactivity. Its relatively decent story and few interesting moments are not enough to elevate the experience, and unless you’ve always wondered what it would be like to move at the speed of an arthritic sloth with no arms or legs, I would steer clear. After doing this review and reading others’ opinions, I realise my own opinion might not prove to be too popular, but it is honest. If you don’t agree with the review, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. If you do agree, then for God’s sake warn the others!