These days, games aren''t the sort of thing you often see.
Im stoking and jumping my way toward the right side of the screenyknow, the typical side-scrolling platforming for the first ten minutes of American Arcadia. So, suddenly, Im a different character, from the first person. Huh.
Out of the Blue, a Madrid-based studio that broke onto the scene in 2020 with the Lovecraftian puzzle game Call of the Sea, continued to work relatively quietly until releasing a 30-second teaser for American Arcadia in April. This month, at the Tribeca Festival, I had a chance to play a hardware build. (Programming note: The demo crashed about 20 minutes in. This was the result, at least to my understanding, of a hardware issue.)
American Arcadia, which does not have a release date, but is now available on PC and consoles, isn''t a puzzle-platformer. Instead, it''s a puzzler and a platformer, set in a retro future inspired by the 70s, with an office worker describing his escape during the sessions. During these conversations, you navigate your way through a massive office building.
You see, just a few minutes in, a twist. Trevor isn''t working at a nondescript corporation. He''s an unwitting cast member on a reality TV show. (The Truman Show is an obvious comparison.) Trevor, who is reading between the lines, attempts to escape. The perspective then shifts, and you assume the role of Angela, a producer on the show.
It''s a lot to take in, and here''s a video breakdown:
We wanted something different; after learning this beautiful notion of escaping a TV show, we thought it [could] have one character inside the screen, according to Tatiana Delgado, the creative director of American Arcadias, who spoke to Kotaku. It made sense to differentiate them, and we wanted to get rid of them with a [memorandum."
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There are plenty of games that grapple with shifting perspectives. From Zelda II, Golgo 13: Top Secret, and The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, developers have experimented with designing games around such a strange lure. It may be, for a bit, a side-scrolling platformer. Then you''ll shift to a top-down view.
In modern games, this is far less common. (Yes, some tentpoles like Grand Theft Auto V and various Elder Scrolls entries allow you to play the game in both first and third-person situations, but that is only a feature, not a prerequisite to the core gameplay.) Ubisoft did it in 2013 with the pirate history sim Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag, which is also enhanced by a few exploration segments in a 2010s office building, all of which are played first-
For one thing, some game engines are the ones that developers used to make video games better. Those days, BioWares Mass Effect: Andromeda was spooked, partly because EA declared it to be developed on the DICE proprietary Frostbite engine. Despite this, games for two perspectives also require a flexible mindset and a slew of challenges.
Delgado declares that 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 production for a larger level that will be played in a shorter time.
As Trevor moved me to Angela and I sat down a bit. At a TV studio, I had to block out some cameras and break into a colleague''s office, where once I turned on the light, the game changed me back to Trevor, and I could actually see what I was doing and where I needed to go. It''s one area that I got to engage with twice.
Although American Arcadia is on the whole a bit less of a head-scratcher than Call of the Sea, puzzles become more complex later in the game. That, of course, is something that must be judged when the game arrives. (American Arcadia does not have a date yet.) But at the very least, it will feature something you rarely see these days.