Okay. *Technically* it’s an interactive episode but First Day [official site although it might be UK only] is the closest thing I have to a Casualty tie-in game right now and an interactive episode is basically a choose your own adventure with a couple of quick time events so I’m going to write about it. It is also surprisingly gory so bear that in mind because screenshots after the jump.
1. They used actual cast members so you spend most of your time hanging out with the doctor and nurse pair Cal Knight and Robyn Miller (one of Robyn’s lines made me do a LOL IRL). Also Clinical Lead Mrs Beauchamp makes some cameo appearances and paramedic-who-used-to-be-angry-but-then-went-on-a-course Iain shows up.
2. It turns out I am a tiny bit scared of Mrs Beauchamp in real life. She talks directly to you [or y’know, talks into the camera] at the start of the episode and tells you off for being late.
3. Your first task is to perform CPR on a dude via an incredibly slow quick time event. I think it’s supposed to be hard to get wrong but the window for success seemed so big that it ended up being kind of unclear. It felt like you could probably just click haphazardly and ace it, although the dev blog on the subject explains you were supposed to feel the weight of responsibility at that moment.
4. You must then make Tough Doctor Choices. There’s only one hospital bed so do you give it to the drunk driver kid or the elderly grandad on the way to his granddaughter’s christening who the drunk driver hit with his car? In the show you rely on the actors to show the impact of tough choices but when it’s a game you need some way of infusing the situation with gravitas otherwise it feels meaningless. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be impactful? Like, doctors are supposed to be able to make those calls all the time so perhaps the point was that it wasn’t a meaningful choice? There’s also a chance I’m overthinking this.
5. The main meat of the episode is a suspicious injury which ties into a possible domestic violence plotline. The plot itself comes across as simplistic which reflects the choice and QTE elements of the interactive episode itself. It’s like, interactive storytelling is producing some really cool stuff at the moment (Life Is Strange [official site] is a strong candidate for my Game of the Year at this point) and it feels like this is returning to far more basic concepts. I don’t know if that’s a tech thing (I don’t know the exact limitations of Interlude which is the video tech the episode uses) or it might be an accessibilty thing. Perhaps the Venn diagram of “Casualty fans” and “people who know what a QTE is and are super comfy with narrative choice” contains only me? I mean I have never met another habitual game player or games journalist who has confessed to a similar love of Casualty.
It might also just be that it’s a typical Casualty plot but now I’m analysing it and finding that it’s a bit off. I mean if I remember correctly, recent plotlines have included a mother who was feeding her daughter tapeworm eggs so she could enter a beauty pageant and a lady who was in love with a building that was marked for demolition but found solace by falling in love with the hospital while she was on the rebound. Also the recent WEDDINGSPLOSION ON A BOAT.
6. I’ve tried two different ways of handling the plot, btw – one ended calmly with people getting the help they need and the other ended with a scalpel assault incident and a proper bollocking from Mrs Beauchamp.
7. The episode is really gory. There are injections and stitches to be done. The associated QTEs are as untaxing as it’s possible to make them but when you complete them (or fail them) you get treated to cut scenes of needles doing the actual injection (obviously not on a real patient but still not stuff I’m happy watching) or the stitching.
The worst part was during a lateral canthotomy to deal with a retrobulbar haemorrhage. Basically you have to cut a tendon in the patient’s eye. The eye is unconvincing enough that I wasn’t particularly bothered on the playthrough where I got the procedure correct but on my bad doctor playthrough I picked the wrong injection site and it actually shows you sticking a needle into the pupil.
WHOLE WORLDS OF NOPE.
8. I do think there’s a real gap in the games market for a soap opera game somehow, but I appreciate that a branching narrative thing would get tricky to keep in check if you don’t limit its scope. I’d really like a Holby/Casualty spin-off that does that – gives you the soapy stuff but you play out individual episodes or limited story arcs. I don’t know if that would feel flimsy though. The closest I get to soaps with gaming are the team stories and journeys in the League of Legends pro scene but that’s more a by-product of following a set of humans doing a particular activity rather than a cultivated story.
9. Then you go to the pub. Unless you were a shit doctor in which case Robyn and Cal go to the pub and you stand sadly at the reception desk while Mrs Beauchamp glares at you.
10. That is all my news about the Casualty game.