In 1947 the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists based in the University of Chicago created the Doomsday Clock. It is a symbolic clock face that represented the countdown to possible nuclear war with midnight representing global destruction by nuclear warfare. The clock’s closest approach to midnight since its inception was in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another. In 2007, climate change was added to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind and existing nuclear weapons stockpiles, the potential for regional nuclear conflict, and concerns about nuclear power safety mean that, according to scientists, we currently live in a healthy (not!) state of three minutes to midnight. But nuclear war seems like such a distant possibility these days.
In the ’50s the possibility of a nuclear war was a very real one. Or at least people and their governments assumed so. Billions of dollars were spent both by governments and individuals in order to procure safety measures in the event of a nuclear attack. We know that things went fine during that era and devastation was averted because… well, because we’re standing here now and not in a barren wasteland. What if a world leader or a rogue military official had made the wrong call? That is the premise of “60 Seconds!“. Ted is a responsible citizen and a family man from Anytown, USA until he is faced with a slight disturbance to his happy, suburban lifestyle. The nuclear apocalypse.
Luckily, Ted was able to procure a fallout bunker for his family and him. With guidance from the US Army, he knows what to do in this situation. Once the air raid sirens go off, he has exactly one minute to pick up the elements necessary for survival in the bunker and get his family members and himself to safety. That is only the start of their ordeal, because now that they’re underground and in relative safety, they’ll have to ration their supplies, make scouting runs and take decisions that can insure or endanger their survival.
“60 Seconds!” was developed and published by Robot Gentleman Studios, a Polish independent game developer. They have developed two other games called Intrigue and Mr. Pancake. “60 Seconds!” was upvoted by the Steam Community through the Greenlight platform and released in May 2015. Robot Gentleman Studios define themselves as ” […] inspired to create captivating games with unconventional stories”.
The game’s playability is divided between two very distinct parts. Scavenging supplies is the more traditional part of gameplay, you travel across your procedurally generated house using WASD controls, you can only carry a certain amount of items to the bunker, crashing against obstacles or trying to pick up stuff with a full inventory makes you lose valuable time. You have to pay careful attention to the radio to identify which items will be essential to survival and also pack enough food and medicine to last during the first few days.
Survival itself is entirely different. It features a lot of reading, decision making and resource management. The family is comprised by four members, two parents (Ted & Dolores) and two kids (Timmy & Mary Jane), providing you were able to take them all safely into the bunker. You have to split your food and water among all of them. Other resources such as medicine are scarce and you’ll have to choose wisely when and on whom to use them. If all the adults perish or choose to desert the bunker it’s game over. If the kids die or choose to desert the bunker that emotionally impacts their parents and is negative on the long run. Long story short, there is a million ways that your characters can die and very few ways to save them. There is not only decision making and resource managemente skills needed but also luck involved. There are some dark comedy aspects as well that make the game emotionally more bearable.
The game features three game modes. Apocalypse mode is the full experience, featuring item scavenging and survival. Scavenge mode features only item scavenging and Survival is pretty self explanatory, only survival with no scavenging. Basics of the game can be easily learned on a very enlightening tutorial.
Graphically, the game was developed using the ever-present Unity Engine, featuring 3D graphics for resource gathering and hand-drawn 2D graphics for survival. The character and level design is cartoonish. The art style is quirky and charming and is strongly reminiscent of the era in which this game takes place. The menu and loading screens take me back to kitsch advertisements and propaganda posters of the ’50s and ’60s. I feel like they could have taken better advantage of the Unity engine. It is weakly optimized and gets frame drops during 3D parts despite the game not being a graphical wonder. The music sounds really good and also is reminiscent of the place and time where the game is set (America in the ’50s). The sound effects are cartoonish and are in tune with the overall visual aspect of the game.
To conclude this review, “60 Seconds!” is a game that puts players in the skin of an average Joe with some hard but lifelike decisions to make. In that sense, it strongly reminds me of games like Papers, Please or This War Of Mine, although with a lighter mood due to the aforementioned dark comedy aspects. The protagonist is not a hero. He doesn’t have superpowers or extensive military training. He’s just a regular guy trying to take care of his family in a terrible situation. The procedurally generated house and item locations combined with the randomness of possible events during our stay at the bunker give this game a ton of replay value. At only ten dollars at full price, it is an economical title with a lot of potential to offer. Join Ted and his family in the bunker and help them survive this terrible ordeal.