Missing: An Interactive Thriller – Episode 1 PC Review
Remember FMV games? You probably don’t; they were a fad even at the height of their popularity back in the 90s. FMVs, or full motion video games, are known for gameplay consisting largely of pre-rendered or recorded video. The genre has been dominated by shoddy production and lackluster ports of more successful media. Nonetheless, the idea of interactive film has fascinated developers for decades with, in recent memory, developers like Quantic Dream, Supermassive Games, and Sam Barlow creating unforgettable cinematic experiences with the interactivity and freedom of a game; however, Zandel Media has been met with much less success in their first episode of “interactive thriller” Missing, released first last year on Android and iOS.
The game opens to our main character, David, a man who has been trapped in a Saw like scenario, taunted by pictures of his family and antagonistic writing on the walls. Immediately Missing sets itself apart from FMVs of old with well-produced visuals and set-pieces. The transition between cutscene gameplay was generally smooth. David and Lambert, a grizzled detective haunted by past failures, are both passably acted and deliver lines smoothly – the once or twice either gets a chance to speak.
After a few opening moments of cutscene we are thrust into the “action”; the gameplay of Missing consists largely of various puzzles with the occasional quicktime event (which range from mundane tasks like sipping coffee to high-stakes life or death moments). Within the first few moments of gameplay the problems with Missing become apparent. In keeping with the gritty realism of the game there are no tutorials, which is fine, but puzzles often are solved by the tiniest, most easily ignored clue and it’s all too common to miss one and get stuck. When you’re not wandering around wondering what you might have missed, the puzzles themselves are unfortunately frequently tedious (like having to do a word search) and very easy.
The saving grace of an FMV or any game based largely on cutscene is the story. Less than stellar puzzles can be forgiven when you’ve got characters you care about and an intriguing plot. Missing has neither of these; the two characters introduced are characterized, if at all, as nothing but clichés, and the plot is simply “Well, something happened” and “Escape!” That’s not to say in ensuing episodes these characters won’t be fleshed out and the story developed, but the importance of hooking the player and making him or her want to come back for more can’t be overstated.
Episode 1 of Missing is a nice looking FMV with decent acting, detailed set-pieces, and little else. While this is only the beginning, my interest in finding out who captured David and why is tempered by relative disinterest in the characters themselves and the events surrounding them.