Tag Archives: ^_^

A mysterious hatch leads to trouble in BNKR

bnkr game final thoughts

I’m attracted to games with strange names or, at the very least, strangely written names. For instance, ^_^XIII, Viewtiful Joe, and Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder. Some quick complete transparency though: I’ve never played that last title, but just the sound of it alone, the way it rolls off your tongue and hangs in the air like some glowing, ethereal angel, has me curious. But yeah, if your game’s title is non-traditional and a bit bizarre, then you already have my attention, which is really helpful when sorting through game jam lists, too. And all that is just to slip into talking about BNKR, a point-and-click game by Piter Games not from Philip K. Dick and not from some recent jam, but just out there, waiting for you to devour.

Here’s the deal: the world was once populated by humans, but now only androids roam the bereft towns and buildings, constantly searching for fuel vital for survival. One day, a hatch opens, demanding whatever lies beneath it to be explored. You play as an unnamed–yet numbered–android with a digitalized male voice who goes down the ladder to see if there is anything worth salvaging.

Not counting the first hub area, which is a small, closed off town in the form of an overhead map with a few buildings to explore, most of BNKR is played from first person perspective. Er, I mean…first android perspective. Thank you, thank you. No, please, I’m happy to sign autographs. Anyways, you can click to move from scene to scene or interact with your surroundings and items in the inventory. A changing cursor alerts you if there’s something worth investigating. And that’s it gameplay-wise, which is fine, as it’s very short, though I’ll admit it took me much longer than probably others to complete it as I got stuck on two less-than-clear puzzles. Spoiler: you can find the third piece of mirror glass hidden between a desk’s drawers, as well as the other half of the broken key in a vent near the ceiling out in the main hallway. There, that should help greatly.

BNKR is a beautiful, desolate world. Also: very gray. You wouldn’t be wrong to immediately think of Machinarium or Primordia immediately, to compare in looks. There’s some light narration atop some striking artwork, and the voice of the robot you control is both human and not, which only helped draw me in more. It’s a strange combination of familiar and foreign, with the robot’s comments on things like levers and desks and photos of once-living humans little puzzles themselves. You can tell that the robot is a little sad, a little unsure. You can mildly interact with another android at the beginning of the game, but other than that, you’re searching solo; I think more droid-on-droid interaction would have been nice–hey now–as well as some dialogue trees to help fill in story gaps. Other than a couple of really well hidden items, the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out if you keep on clicking, and you can probably breeze through the game in about ten or fifteen minutes.

Alas, BNKR ends right as it just starts getting good plot-wise, and so I’ll have to keep looking for whatever comes from the people at Piter Games, as finding out what’s actually inside that opened hatch is just the tip of the post-apocalyptic iceberg.

^_^ will shout at you until you are a smiling fool

I can understand that this blog post’s title might be a little confusing to read, but that’s how it is. Like Prince’s unpronounceable Love Symbol #2, ^_^ is a name that’s easier to type than say outloud. In my mind, I refer to it as Smiley Face or The Wererabbit, but your mileage may vary. However you want to say it can be argued this way and that, but one thing is clear: y’all need to play this.

I discovered ^_^–and subsequently further work by Ben Chandler–from the Gnome’s Lair blog, which focuses its coverage heavily on point-and-click adventure games, a genre that I’ve been enjoying more and more thanks to my recent times with Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge and Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. Initially, I was attracted to ^_^ by a single screenshot, which, almost immediately, made me want to click on everything, from the cart to the crow to the coatrack. Turns out that single screenshot makes up the entire space of the game, so it’s a relief that it is simply gorgeous. The lighting on the grass from the lamp is worth noting.

So, Julian is a wererabbit–the first of his kind, too–but wasn’t always that way. He’s trying to get a witch to help change him back, but first, he must retrieve her hair, which keeps running away from her. Also, there’s a verbally-challenged vampire and enough jazzy records to keep one from selling their ol’ gramophone for one of them newfangled cee-dee players. Yeah, it’s kind of weird and random, but cohesively sound, with a clear goal to achieve. Puzzles involve a lot of clicking and dialogue options and using the right item from your inventory at the right time and place. Standard adventure game stuff, but it’s all very charming here. My favorite running gag within ^_^ is all the shouting, which also nicely plays a pivotal part in getting that magical hair back to its master. The small addition of a screen shake each time is quite effective.

I played for about an hour last night, getting stuck a couple of times. ^_^ is no walk in the park, or a walk outside a witch’s house at that. Trial and error will get you there, as well as paying attention to how the game operates early on. Generally, if Julian uses a certain trick to advance the plot, he’ll do it at least once more before credits roll. Oh, and speaking of credits, Chandler handles them as nothing more than in-game dialogue, which I found pretty amusing and appropriate. After that, the game ends. It literally shuts itself down, leaving you left to stare at whatever image is gracing your desktop, heartstrings tugging for just one more thing to click on.

^_^ is a charming short story, with many moments worth remembering. The graphics and animations are surreal and surpass many quote-unquote professional games of the same ilk, and the funny moments are genuinely funny. Play it for the vampire tongue-twisters and all the shouting and the revelation from where the game gets name. Play it because it’s freeware, but made with skill and style. Play it.