PLEASE NOTE: This is a PREVIEW of an EARLY BUILD
A spooky game from Red Ego and Green Man publishers
Re:Turn - One Way Trip - Enter the Unknown
When this started with five friends seated around a campfire in what looked like a clearing in the woods, it brought back memories of my youth, although in those days we would always try for even numbers of Boys and Girls; having 2 Girls and 3 Boys is a mite awkward. The stories are scary and the jokes are near-adult.
The chat sequences have good sharp images and allow you to click through the conversations using the [Return] key - this is where I begin to surmise that the 'Re:Turn' of the title is the [Return] of the key, seeing as it is used so much throughout.
The onscreen characters, when not in sequence mode, are patchy and pixelated, not to the extent of being unrecognisable but enough to give the game a fairly accurate retro graphics style.
The five 'friends' are Yuuta, Saki, Kazuki, Sen and Kanae. They are not the 'Famous Five' and they don't have a dog with them. The campfire tales they are telling are typically spooky and driven to scare each other. Suddenly an earthquake, or similar, occurs and the friends try to laugh it off. Then, as young teens do, they decide to split up and look for more kindling as their camp fire is down to embers.
The two girls, Saki and Kanae, go off to the left and the three boys to the right. You get to control Saki, there are no options on who you control. During their chatting you learn that this camping trip is quite likely to be the last time they all see each other outside of the last few days of school, as they all have the next parts of their lives planned out. You do not get to follow the boys or see what they are up to on their excursion.
The girls find some firewood near a lake and think they hear something in the bushes. As this is a side-scroller you cannot look up or down or into any areas other than the left and right narrow paths. The girls return to the fire and keep it going with the firewood they have gathered. The boys enter the scene, empty handed, soon after.
Sen, one of the boys, and apparently the fiancee of Saki, accuses Yuuta (who I must admit looks like he could be a boy (as suggested) or a girl (from clothing and hair style etc) of chatting up Saki. Kanae and Kazuki cuddle up together and Saki stands aside as Sen lets rip at Yuuta in no uncertain terms.
Yuuta gives back his best, makes a comment that they think he is their friend, but that he may not be, and then he trudges off alone into the dark night to the right; no one follows him. Instead nobody worries or cares about him and they all decide to go to bed, girls in one tent, boys in the other.
The story really begins when Saki awakes after having a nightmare in which she sees a spooky young girl, and finds she is alone. By this time I am intrigued. It is dark, and now foggy, and Saki, in true scroller form, has to run back and forth to collect items she now needs, oh, and also to discover a grave and headstone that weren't on the path earlier (eerie!). Saki is now your avatar.
She cannot go any further to the left (whenever I mention left and right I am giving directions as I look at the screen) as the water doesn't allow her to enter, thus she has to go the way the boys and Yuuta went last night. Weirdly, when she goes on a screen blip or two, she encounters impassable weeds and bushes - no pass through which the boys would have had to pass through - eerie again!
Using an old rusty kukri knife, that she finds when required, she cuts her way through, the blade breaking just on the point of breakthrough. She finds herself a few steps away from some rusty twisted train track; one step further and she discovers the decrepit, oxidised husk of an ancient rail carriage. Being brave she enters.
The atmosphere created up to this point has been more than enough to negate the 'do as your told' directions you are following. Unfortunately once you get onto the train the gameplay continues as before, and it begins to lose flavour and gain monotony.
Even the big creepy eyeball appearing through one window for a few seconds (seen by you, unnoticed by Saki) and later the eerie sounds and hands scratching on another window, do nothing to build the fear-factor and heighten the appeal of the play. Saki, who a little while ago seemed frightened and concerned that her friends had all disappeared now takes finding a dismembered arm in her stride.
Moving on down the train she enters a chamber with a noose hanging ominously from the ceiling and in the next room she sees through the window of a locked door a human shape swaying side to side. Luckily I find a telephone on the wall of the train which allows me to save - in the first part (up to the kids all going missing) I had to leave the game and had by then found no way to save it, so I had to play it all through again - no autosave had kicked in if it was supposed to.
Now I am moving Saki up and down the train. The only time I can do something, not always eventfully or usefully, is when a 'spyglass' appears (like an item highlighting in other games). I need do nothing other than use the Arrow Keys to move left or right and the [Return] key to activate and search etc. There is an (I)nventory where items found are stored but they are not used automatically, you physically have to open the Inventory, click with the [Return] key on the item and then go back to the game for it to be used, a rather longer than necessary action. Surely in 2020 games like this should at least have auto useage of items found when you discover where to use them.
I really enjoyed the first part of playing and was truly interested in discovering what happened to Yuuta, Kazuka, Sen and Kanae. But by the end of the 40-45 minutes (including re-start) playing my interest had waned - scrolling along waiting for spyglasses to light up had lost its glamour.
I admit I am keen on story driven games but not where the player has little to do except turn the pages of an onscreen book and choose to ask/answer questions from a predetermined list. I am not a great side-scroller player, generally I haven't the nimbleness in my fingers to be fast enough on the keys or buttons. This is a slow-motion mixed-in version of game styles where you listen to the characters chatting but do not have to act on what you hear nor ask/answer any questions.
The game's author/writer, David Bergantino, has a solid past in everything Horror, and is actually really well known for his work on Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, amongst other projects, and is also working on Dying Light 2. His experience shows in the story of Re:Turn One Way Trip as it shows all the promise and potential of a good old-fashioned horror film. I am sure it will draw fans of Wes Craven, horror stories and creepy games from all over the internet; it just doesn't do it for me.
PLEASE NOTE: This is a PREVIEW of an EARLY BUILD