If a game’s title ever made gamers sit up, take notice and then scratch their collective heads over what it was about, then Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is certainly it.
Actually, even after playing it, I’m still not sure on that last point, but at the least, Rapture remains an interesting example of a game that would seem to have its place on the PC but is actually a console exclusive thanks to Sony.
In the same vein as games like Dear Esther, The Chinese Room’s latest is best described by being placed in the new and growing genre of ‘walking simulator’. It’s an interactive novel where you take a minimal role in the actions of the story to move it along.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture takes storytelling and twists it by presenting it as a series of conversations which are pieced together to form a non-linear tale. The game drops you in a small country village with no real explanation of what’s happening, short of a radio message at your start point. All you’re aware of is that the place looks deserted and there are strange balls of light that guide you towards new story elements.
The setting feels like something from Midsummer Murders, assuming all the actors were actually twinkling shadows of their former selves, that is. Their conversations are often twee and seem insignificant at first, only taking on more significance as you start to piece together the events that took this place from a bustling everyday village to a ghost town. At its half way point it becomes more eerie, but in a quaint English way, a sort of modern Tales of the Unexpected (if you pardon the 80s TV reference). Just like that series the final outcome here is probably less unexpected as it is ponder-some and thoughtful, but I won’t spoil it for you all the same.
Disembodied phone calls from payphones, further messages left on tape recorders dotted around the landscape and items strewn around the village all help to push the story along at a sedate pace, governed further by your inability to run at more than a snail’s pace through the game. The pacing is important and it’s obvious that the developer wants you to stop and look at the world they’ve created, take in the scenery and tease you with the eeriness of a place where everyone has suddenly disappeared in the middle of whatever it was they were doing.
The game element is down to discovering the paths for yourselves and the story doesn’t ask you to take a set path in a linear order, though it certainly guides you to an end point all-the-same. There’s also an odd tilt element to ‘unlocking’ of conversations that feels wholly unnecessary. What you get out of this depends on how much you find yourself caring about this little slice of rural England and whether you enjoy those down-to-earth sci-fi stories of the 70s and early 80s. It’s not going to be for everyone, that’s for sure.
Maybe it’s because I’m nosey or that I live somewhere not too dis-similar to the village here, but the game really resonated with me. I wanted to know everything that happened in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture and while I was dying to get to the end point, I wanted to take in the atmosphere and the little stories created by everyday events and people.
A nod should be given to the music, which is perfectly suited to the game. Several specially written pieces backed by harps and a full choir really lift important elements and give them more emotional punch.
There are replayable elements, created by Trophies that can be earned for specific actions, some of which require going back into the game just to achieve them. I may well do this, though the impact of the initial playthough will now be lost. I’m sure there are some conversations I’ve missed and little areas I’ve failed to stumble across, however. But for me, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture has been an excellent experience in modern story telling and something very different to the norm.