At the Develop conference in Brighton, 10 indie developers were given a platform at the expo to show off their creations to the world. One of these games, 4PM, looked intriguing from the offset, with its lovely lighting effects and emotive posters advertising the game on the show floor. After a few minutes of playing the game, and talking with its creator, Bojan Brbora, I managed to get a review copy of this novel adventure title, which has recently been released on Steam for £3/$4.99.
You start out on a roof overlooking a city; the sun is up high in the sky and there's a noire look to the scene. This is where 4PM will teach you how to control your character through the world, and will start to ease you into the icons on screen (for things you can interact with), and the general feel of your character's movement. Before long, you’re transported back to your bedroom, where you learn a little bit about your character (you play as a lady named Caroline), and get to explore how she lives her life by looking around her apartment.
4PM takes you from situation to situation like this, giving you a little insight into the daily workings of Caroline's life and how it's different from everyone else’s. Yes, she has a boss that’s shouting at her for being late, and yes, she likes to go out for the occasional drink once in a while, but what makes her tick, and what does her past hide? The game constantly pushes these questions at you during your playthrough, making you delve deeper into Caroline's daily life. Eventually, you’ll have to start making some decisions, for which there will be consequences.
Although 4PM could be likened to an adventure game for the most part - you’re chiefly explore or involuntarily view Caroline's daily routine - you do occasionally get to tackle gameplay mechanics where a set objective must be completed within a time limit, or you must avoid being detected by a certain person. These “missions” have fail states that return you back to your previous checkpoint, so you have to make sure you succeed in doing them, otherwise you’ll be stuck for a while undertaking the same tasks repeatedly.
Graphically, 4PM doesn’t initially show any tell-tale signs of being an indie game. The city's vistas and lighting effects take centre stage in conveying the game's story to you, and the score and voice acting are both of exceptionally high quality, ensuring the game feels much more polished than its budget price tag would suggest.
Where the game will fall through for a lot of players is in its longevity, or lack thereof. I managed to complete 4PM and view all of its endings within an hour, so it's certainly a short game, which also unfortunately means there's barely enough time to touch on some of the deep issues 4PM raises. When I asked Bojan why the game was only £3, he said that he was concerned, especially with this being his first title, that a higher price might anger customers. For what it's worth, I feel the game is priced adequately - those who value the potential of Bojan's games, or want to see more from an up and coming talent in the indie scene, shouldn’t feel too put off by its short length because it's offset by a low price point.
Whilst 4PM is a promising first game from a brand new indie developer, it’s not going to be to everyone's taste. Given its short play time and occasionally lacking gameplay, 4PM should be seen more as an experiment that's testing the waters than a full blown game. If you’re the type of gamer who enjoyed Gone Home, however, then 4PM should be right up your street.
This review is based on a digital copy of 4PM for the PC, provided by the publisher.