The following review is spoiler free! Enjoy!
Somewhere between Visual Novel and Point-and-Click Adventure lies Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. Forgoing interactive obstacles for a deep and engaging narrative, Rapture’s focus is placed squarely in it’s storytelling. But can the extraordinary circumstances of a small town sustain a six hour long campaign? Surprisingly, yes. Despite an intrusive framerate and movement speed, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture features one of the most haunting, emotional, and human stories ever seen in a video game.
Taking place in a rural British village in the early 1980’s, Rapture details the days leading up to a strange phenomenon. As the title implies, the inhabitants of this once quiet town have vanished, leaving their homes and belongings behind them. An ominous golden orb hovers about, guiding the player towards seemingly inconsequential locations. Ghostly golden apparitions appear, reenacting out of context conversations both relevant and personal, but rarely conclusive. Each of the six environments center around an individual character, creating a portrait of their personality, relationships, beliefs, and fears.
But it’s the expertly performed voice acting and pitch perfect dialogue that brings these everyday people to life. From polite exchanges to existential epiphanies, every scene illuminates the core philosophy of each citizen while maintaining a remarkable degree of realism. What makes this so impressive is its diverse cast of characters and themes. Adultery, aging, and religion are treated with the same gravitas as a metaphysical breakthrough, making lesser narrative threads just as engrossing as the main arc. Fans of classic science fiction and serialized television will feel right at home in this well written and deliberately paced story.
As spectacular as these sequences are, they’re only one half of Rapture’s experience. Players will need to walk throughout the unnamed town to discover scenes. The realistically rendered village fleshes out life before the event. Adolescent graffiti, posters for local meetings, and notices for a quarantine establish a sense of place and time. Large fields, personal gardens, and trees are beautifully crafted while the more suburban environments reinforce the mundane routines of the locals. Swelling orchestral arrangements and some of the best audio mixing in recent memory further absorb the player into the ambient setting. Unfortunately the interiors of most home feature the same handful of objects, paintings and even architecture. But this slight repetition doesn’t detract from incredible and believable world of Rapture.
Sadly, a few issues persist throughout the game. The walking speed of the player is obtrusively slow, discouraging exploration early on. A jog button is available, but it’s momentum based system does little to pick up the pace. This isn’t so much an issue while moving towards the main story points, but locating hidden conversations becomes more of a chore than a treat. At one point, I lost track of a major sequence and spent nearly an hour recovering it. Sequence breaking is also a major issue, you’ll never been quite sure you’re heading in the right direction given how unrestrictive the environment is. Worse yet, your glowing guide will become stuck at particular moments of the game, leaving the player to wander a large area for the next event. Outside of gameplay, a distractingly inconsistent framerate affects many of the games larger areas. These issues don’t ruin the experience but they can make this otherwise simplistic game continuously arduous.
The Chinese Room has created one of the most unique console experiences of the generation so far. Yes, the actual gameplay can become tedious due to technical issues and questionable design choices. But the player’s patience is more than rewarded with a thought provoking and consistently captivating narrative. What does it all mean? That’s something only you can decide after the credits roll. But is it worth experiencing? For fans of experimental storytelling, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is one of the finest games of the year.
VGAD Score: 8.5/10.