Critical Play: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is an eerie, first-person mystery/adventure art video game developed by The Chinese Room and SCE Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony in 2015.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture centers around exploring a small English town after the end of the world. The objective of the game is then to piece together the story of what lead to everyone’s death/disappearance.
Gameplay & Controls
Gameplay consists of exploring the abandoned town, interacting with what remains to extract bits and pieces of the greater story of what happened. Since the story is focused entirely on story, controls are limited only to basic, four-direction movement and an interact control.
A majority of information comes from glowing orbs of light which can be followed around and interacted with to experience cutscene-like replays of what characters were doing and saying in the days before the rapture. Supplemental information can be gathered by interacting with other objects like radios and phones.
The target audience for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is likely 12+ considering the maturity of some of the content. Although no actual death or direct scares are witnessed, the dialogue and leftover items allude to things not totally appropriate for younger people.
Types of Fun
Since Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a relatively straightforward game in its design, it mostly focuses on only one type of fun: Discovery.
Discovery — With there being lots and lots of story bits to pick up across the entire map on top of the actual physical walking around and exploring, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is whole-heartedly dedicated to this type of fun and delivers on it expertly. Every area I explored added more and more layers to the story and its overall eerie/unsettling-ness.
Although I would say it pushed this type of fun near its full potential, there is a clear lacking to the game that comes from it not really focusing on any way to enjoy other than exploration. One thing I would definitely have liked to see would be the incorporation of challenges/puzzles that made it non-trivial to move from place to place perhaps.
How Narrative is Woven into the Mystery
Much like how the swimming simulator Abzû is fully committed to its mission of “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” I would say Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is committed to the same but, instead of there being an ocean of sea life and caves to explore, the journey is through the story points of what occurred before the end of the world.
Everything in this game is layered with narrative. From the start, the ambient radio noises, the signs, the maps, the abandoned cars and the like all emanate story. It’s clear from the beginning that something bad has happened and with the very first radio transmission you hear, it’s clear that there’s a mystery to be solved. From there, by letting you roam and interact with the remains of the town, the game begets an engaging, mystery-solving gameplay experience.