Last year, a TV show debuted in the U.S. named Awake, about a man who was living in two different realities: in one, his wife had died in a car accident, and in the other, his wife survived but his son died. I was initially fascinated by the premise, but after a few episodes I grew impatient with the protagonist’s inability to change his fate. He was living two lives, unable to merge the parallel realities into one with his family intact. (Apparently I wasn’t the only frustrated viewer; the show has since been canceled.) Even though Tinnitus Games, a new German developer made up of former Black Mirror 2 and 3 team members, never saw Awake, they’ve come up with a very similar dilemma in the first episode of Reperfection. This time, however, the family can be reunited—if only you can figure out how to make it happen.
Rather than being inspired by a TV show, Reperfection has obviously been influenced by another form of storytelling: graphic novels. Upon launching this downloadable game, the first thing you’ll see is a menu styled like a comic book cover, where a man is holding a woman’s limp body in front of a horrific pile-up of vehicular wreckage. Select "New Game" and the comic flips open to reveal blank pages with only one panel filled in. The artwork is black and white with occasional key items appearing in red, and text appears in conversation bubbles (the game is not voiced). The 2D backgrounds are static, with characters “tweening” from one position to another to suggest movement. Appropriately for a comic book, there is no fluid animation.
The story opens on Tuesday at 2:00pm, with married couple Ben and Sarah Freeman talking in their living room about how they’ll spend the afternoon. Ben’s off work and hopes to spend some quality time with his wife, but she’s late for an appointment near their son’s elementary school. Sarah rushes to take a shower while Ben lies down on the couch to watch TV. At this point, the player takes control and begins to learn more about the Freemans’ home life by interacting with items around the house.
Reperfection’s interface is mouse-driven and straightforward. To interact with hotspots, you hold down the left mouse button and icons appear that indicate which actions you can take (the standard look, talk, etc.). Still holding the mouse button, you must drag the cursor over one of these icons to select it. It’s awkward at first—I would have preferred for the action icons to stay visible after the initial click, without requiring that the mouse button be held down—but it’s easy enough to get the hang of. The items you can interact with inside the Freemans’ house, such as family photos and paintings son Danny made at school, portray a quiet and contented suburban lifestyle. As you explore, views of other areas appear in different comic panels on the formerly blank page, giving the feeling that the story is unfolding based on your actions.
Soon enough, Sarah finishes her shower and runs out the door, promising to bring home a pizza for dinner. And this is when fate kicks in: the soccer match Ben’s watching on TV is interrupted by breaking news of a huge traffic accident near Danny’s school. Ben tries to get his wife on the phone, but it goes straight to voice mail…
The page turns. Now it’s Friday at 10:00am, and Sarah’s funeral is taking place in a small church on a picturesque hillside. Ben stands in the aisle, hesitating before the casket. The seats behind him are packed with mourners; Danny sits alone off to one side. As Ben approaches the casket and opens the lid to say a final goodbye, he looks into Sarah’s eyes and the screen begins to spin. Suddenly Ben and Sarah are back in the house, on Tuesday afternoon, with Sarah rushing to her appointment and Ben hopeful that he can save her life.
If the Freeman family’s happiness, established in the 5-10 minute intro I’ve just described, is the heart of Reperfection, Ben’s ability to turn back time is the game’s soul. He discovers that by looking into a dead person’s eyes, he can travel back to the minutes before their death and attempt to change their fate. It’s the chance that Awake’s unfortunate protagonist never had, but as you might expect, success isn’t a simple matter of altering one or two events. No matter what Ben tries, the multi-vehicle accident will still occur with equally tragic consequences: if Sarah doesn’t make it to the school, then Danny gets on the bus and dies instead.
Ben can only save his family by preventing the accident altogether—working his way through a chain of the recently dead, reliving their last moments, and altering their fates ever so slightly until he’s able to pinpoint the event that started it all. This quest takes Ben down a gripping, at times surprising path that sets up a larger story to be addressed in future episodes. (This game is billed as Volume 1; there are two more installments planned, each to be released about six months apart.)Continued on the next page...