Leicester, Aug 2018
Reactorvate eschews the obvious plot for a game set in a nuclear power station in favour of a more complicated premise: your great uncle was blamed for a catastrophic meltdown, and your aim is to sneak into the abandoned station, find data to clear his name, and get out before you’re caught.
This game’s most controversial decision is that one sequence leaves you in more or less total darkness. That initially seemed like a terrible idea, reducing us to fumbling our way around a large and complicated space hoping to stumble across something useful. However, once we belatedly figured out the correct way to approach this part of the game, it abruptly became far more reasonable, and rather clever.
And once you can see what you’re doing – well. I can’t say I’ve looked around many derelict nuclear power stations, but Reactorvate certainly looks the part. Even better, the gameplay involves fiddling with control panels and heaving around huge industrial bits and pieces, with the impressive set not just the backdrop but the actual content of the game.
The no-holds-barred presentation lifts all parts of the game. A couple of logic-based puzzles might have seemed quite dry in another context, but implemented with Soviet control boxes or hefty nuclear fuel cells they’re a thrill to complete. The array of unfamiliar apparatus has a downside, depending on your puzzle tastes: many parts of the game rely on reading instructions in some form to know what to do. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that – all such instructions are well presented and make sense, and didn’t become bottlenecks for us – it’s just nice when a puzzle doesn’t need to tell you what you’re aiming for, because you can work it out from exploration and from the logic of what you’re trying to do.
Of course, the majority of teams prefer plenty of guidelines to point them in the right direction, and Reactorvate is a game well suited to less experienced players – for enthusiasts, it’s biggest weakness is that it’s on the short side. However, even if I’d have liked a little more content, what there is is superb. Once again it builds up to an ever-more impressive ending that showcases Escapologic’s flair for wonderfully over the top theatrics, and then some. For set and spectacle, this is one of the company’s best even by Escapologic’s high standards; and though you may finish it quickly, there’s a lot of fun packed into a short game.