Bridging film and video game, interactive movies are a niche format. However, with most of us having a lot more time on our hands during lockdown, now may be the time to give this hybrid genre more attention. Removing many of the annoyances FMV adventures are associated with, and featuring strong production values, The Complex is a solid entry point, even if it's far more enjoyable as a choose-your-own adventure experience than film entertainment.
The video game equivalent of a shot of espresso, award-winning Fractured Minds is a short, potent and tonally dark exploration of living with anxiety and other mental health issues. In some ways, it's obviously the effort of a teenage game developer. In others, well, a good many adult creators can learn from its perceptiveness and sophisticated implementation.
Horror-adventure Close to the Sun pairs an emotionally-engaging narrative with arguably one of the most stunning and memorable game worlds of 2019. Pity about the frustrating gameplay choices and story decisions that ramp up in the final third of the game. They cast a shadow over the accomplishments that preceded them.
Moons of Madness is an engaging and atmospheric effort that feels like a Love(craftian) child of Half-Life and Dead Space. You'll be playing more for the cerebral rewards than the scares, though. Despite its seamless merger of cosmic horror and credible sci-fi, the game doesn't quite match its potential in the consistent emotional intensity of its execution. Plus, the ending feels rushed.
Whether you call it an interactive movie game or desktop thriller, Telling Lies is a gratifying and authentic-feeling fly-on-the-wall experience. For the most part. Exceptional performances and an intriguing, topical story are undercut by a jarring gameplay choice that forces you out of the game when you least want it.
It'll be an acquired taste, but for those who have the patience for its deliberate opaqueness, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is the type of game its fans will be playing on and off for months, if not years. Its challenging nature makes it equal parts compelling and frustrating, but there's no question this smart survival adventure contains loads of rewards for persistent players.
The Mystery of Woolley Mountain certainly serves up rewarding mental challenges, but they're paired with a constant challenge of another sort: the game's unsophistication in almost every other department. Stilted in its art style and comedic choices, it will test your nerves as much as your brain.
With sumptuous hand-crafted visuals and a throwback LucasArts approach to puzzle-adventure gaming, Trüberbook is a treat for genre fans. Well, in part anyway. It's a pity that all the goodwill the game generates is drained by an unsatisfying story that doesn't bother to answer even half of the questions it's raised.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a prime example for anyone making the case that video games are a powerful art form. Creatively ambitious, it's exceptionally well-thought-out and implemented – making it striking at both a sensorial and psychological level as it delves deep into an exploration of life with psychosis. It has its gameplay flaws but remains must-experience for adult audiences. An instant classic for this generation.
It has its flaws, and definitely isn't mainstream, but 11-11: Memories Retold is an important and emotionally potent game. For players with patience, and those who lean towards shorter, contemplative and character-driven gaming experiences, it's something to add to your library. For everyone though, gamer and non-gamers alike, it is an engrossing and educational look at war from a relatable, individual perspective. And right now it feels like the world could do with just such a well-though-out reminder about the humanity of others.