You wouldn’t think that 2015 would be a banner year for the FMV game, but it does seem like interactive movies are making an understated comeback. We’ve already seen releases like Stay Dead Evolution, Contradiction and MISSING hit Steam in the last few months to a more positive reception than FMV games have generally gotten by the gaming public. Even this year’s Need for Speed is going back to FMV cutscenes in between races to tell its no doubt ridiculous story. It’s an appealing method for indie developers and bigger companies alike, since they’re cheap to make and tend to gather cult followings if done the right way—known colloquially in some circles as the “Razor Callahan Effect.” So it is no surprise that Greenlight also has a few FMV contenders waiting in the wings for their Steam debut. One of these releases stood out to me, as it seems to understand precisely why some people love full motion video.
Press X To Not Die is an FMV choose your own adventure with a title that is perhaps a bit too on the nose. Of course, it also reveals the game’s tone, which is the kind of detached seriousness you could only get from low budget filmmaking. The story is a simple one, with a suburb suddenly being overcome with a deadly virus that turns people into homicidal maniacs. You will watch a scene play out and then get one of three options to choose from to progress the story. These options range from sensible things that will help our hero to outright non-sequitur stupidity that will get him in trouble. Much like playing through the original Fallout games as an idiot, choosing the stupid options leads to moments of hilarious absurdity. Since absurdity is half of the reason I like adventure games in the first place, these options are much appreciated. However, despite its frequent dips into lunacy, the production itself seems to have had more heart and effort expended than many of the projects that they are emulating from the early 90s. This is partially helped by the emergence of new devices that outclasses the tech of older FMV, like GoPros and other HD cameras. Even so, I don’t imagine the sets of Sewer Shark or Thunder in Paradise were filled with actors passionate about what they were doing for gaming. The project’s Facebook page has a wealth of photos from the filming process that reveal a cast and crew dedicated to bringing back this type of experience. It also reveals a clown standing next to a man with a chainsaw and a bowling pin ninja. So something for everyone really.
In the gameplay department, Press X to Not Die does its best to innovate in a genre that is not particularly known for interactivity. For one, X is not the only button you have to press if you wish to remain alive. There are actually several difficulty modes in Press X To Not Die that require more button presses during quick time events in order to succeed. There is also a “1994 mode” included for those who pine for simple and pixelated times of the Sega CD, the 3DO, and the Phillips CD-I. Everyone involved here seems to know what they’re attempting and what audiences to cater to, and digital distribution has made aiming towards those audiences easier than ever.
So, whether you’re an MST3K fan looking to get a few laughs out of a ridiculous premise, or a genuine fan of the idea of interactive movies who wants to see a genre rebirth, Press X To Not Die seems to be worth a look. It might not have the artistic chops of a Her Story, but it gets down that tongue-in-cheek attitude and chaotic framing that FMV games from 20 years ago first pioneered. Press X To Not Die is making its way through Steam Greenlight right now and promises a PC and Mac release, along with an Xbox 360 release via Xbox Live Indie Games. Good to know that XBLIG is still kicking despite Microsoft wanting nothing to do with it.
If you want to see Press X To Not Die on Steam, go ahead and give it a vote! If you want to see a game featured on a future To The Green, go ahead and comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org ! If you are looking for Night Trap cheat codes, remember that you have to listen to the entire theme song performance if you want to reveal the hidden basement chamber. Good luck!