Wot I Think: 35MM

35MM is a less fantastical, more sedate STALKER. It is tempting to call it Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture meets Russian post-apocalyptic fiction, but it is not a walking simulator: it has action and horror and much more besides. I beseech you to play it.

It is a journey through a post-disaster Russian wilderness, in search of life and hope, in an attempt to survive.

Sometimes it is a train ride through a post-disaster Russian wilderness.

It is more interested in questions of humanity than it is questions of science-fiction.

It is restrained about light and colour, but what starts dour steadily blossoms into eerie beauty.

There is a companion NPC by the player’s side for the majority of the game, but somehow it feels solitary nonetheless.

The companion rarely speaks; when he does it is with a short directive to aid the pair’s survival or quiet reflection about their existence.

The game’s nature changes sharply on several occasions: it is a walking simulator, it is a horror game, it is a shooter, it has gentle puzzles. It has an awful quick-time event fistfight. It has a bear escape scene. It even has an optional jigsaw mini-game. It is deeply, determinedly unpredictable.

It is a journey above all else, but a filmic one, with beats and setpieces.

35MM is ugly-beautiful; I don’t mean graphically ugly, but in terms of the stark Soviet-era architecture, the grey weather and the lingering menace. Like STALKER, it conjures a place, a real place, but unlike STALKER it is designed to make us admire it without regular distraction; slowly, increasingly affectionately. 35MM makes grey beautiful.

35MM is a game in which the arrival of sunlight really means something. As does the sound of the rain and the glimmer of a lantern.

Screenshots do not convey how striking and how tangible 35MM’s landscape, particularly during its mid-game railway line section, is.

Screenshots do not convey how 35MM made me feel.

The attention to detail, both in recreating a place and in creating moments of horror, is hugely impressive. 35MM began as a game I thought cheap and throwaway, and built into something I thought often magnificent. It is meticulous and determined.

Even in terms of vegetation.

Its first and weakest 15 minutes aside, it is not a walking simulator. It is a set journey with scenes of action and drama and horror and choice, and some freedom to go off the beaten path if you so wish.

There are multiple endings; these depend on your willingness to perform certain actions, and to find those actions in the first place.

It builds into some extreme strangeness and heightened action; there were times when I thought “this is what it would be like if Bioshock were made in Russia.”

At times the tension was so acute that I had to stop playing for a while.

Its sparing use of music is perfectly-judged.

Its Russian-English translation is terrible, but it just about gets away with it: it reads like broken poetry, adding to the feeling of a world barely holding itself together.

35MM lasts three to five hours, depending on how much leave you give yourself to explore and admire the sights; my playthrough was closer to the latter. I wish it could have been longer, but I appreciate that the density and fidelity of the scenes it shows would have made that effectively impossible without an enormous budget.

It is a mystery and a journey you should experience for yourself, and that is why I have resisted detail.

I happily add 35mm to the swollen pantheon of RPS’ highly-recommended games from the first half of 2016. It is janky at times, but it is something special.

35MM is out now for Windows.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    caff says:


    • ephesus64 says:

      Same. Well, near the top of the queue, at least.

    • snowgim says:

      I only made it halfway through the article before I scrolled to the bottom to type just that.

    • sonofsanta says:


      The references here, and the reverence here, from a reviewer I trust implicitly… no doubt at all in my mind.

    • DuncUK says:

      35mm is now part of the Indie Gala “Hump Day” Bundle. I just picked this up for £2.60 odd along with a bunch of other games I’ve never heard of. Huge discount on the store price.

      link to indiegala.com

    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      I came back here to say I’ve now played 35MM through, and it’s certainly a unique experience. It has all the feeling of the best strange Russian games, such as Stalker, Cryostasis, Pathologic… there isn’t much game, but it’s more like a good book.

      • szarkam says:

        Could not agree more. Just finished the game and definitely agree that it is more a cinematic experience than it is a game. Beautiful and haunting experience.

  2. edna says:

    Reviews like this are why I RPS. Thanks.

  3. Monggerel says:

    “Sometimes it is a train ride through a post-disaster Russian wilderness.”

    Might as well wear your influences on your face, I guess.
    And, when you think about it, not caring that you might appear gauche really is the most important meal of the day.

    • Louis Mayall says:

      I don’t really see how you could call this gauche. Like everything it definitely has influences that are clear, but it looks contemplative and interesting. That’s a weird adjective to use

  4. GWOP says:

    So… let the Russians make Half Life 3?

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Oh wow, Half Life meets Metro meets Stalker. Make it so Vladimir!

      • Don Reba says:

        Metro and Stalker are both Ukrainian (made by the same people, too).

  5. Renegade says:

    Looks like it’s quite influenced by the movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky.

    Still it looks like a much better successor to Stalker then Survarium (Yay an actual single player game!) Might just have to pick this game up.

  6. RabbitIslandHermit says:

    Ooh, I wonder what kind of camera that is. Looks similar to my Zorki 3M, but it doesn’t look like it has a rangefinder, and it definitely isn’t an SLR, so maybe a point-and-shoot offshoot of a Zorki or FED?

    • benevolentmastermind says:

      It is a rangefinder camera — a FED 2, as can be seen on the main menu screen — but of course it only has a passing resemblance to the real thing.

  7. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    You had me at STALKER. Sold

  8. ezro says:

    Did you do away with the RPS recommendation badge? I think it may be the third or fourth glowing review I had read that didn’t carry it.
    Also, since it looks like you’re trying out a new format for the reviews, let me chime in and say that I really disliked it. I suppose it does have the potential to become something like a piece of photojournalism from a gameworld. This one however read like a half-assed attempt at a review by someone who being unable to produce a coherent longer text, cobbled together some screenshots with his tedious musings. Stuff like: “At times the tension was so acute that I had to stop playing for a while.” and “It builds into some extreme strangeness and heightened action; there were times when I thought “this is what it would be like if Bioshock were made in Russia.”” really doesn’t read well.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Highly doubt that this is an attempt to try a new review format. It is more a case of letting the beautiful screenshots speak for themselves and to not give too much away about the actual game.

      Agree that it would be awful to this as a regular thing, but as this game is called 35MM and features a camera it seems rather fitting to give the review as much in images as in words.

      • neckro23 says:

        Also, there are 23 screenshots (counting the video thumbnail). One roll’s worth of photos, if you screw up one or two shots.

    • lglethal says:

      Conversely, I thought it was an extremely well done review. Would I want this sort of review for every game, no but from the description of the game I get from this review, then this review really seems like the perfect way to do the review.

      I give this review 2 thumbs up! ;)

    • UncleLou says:

      I am afraid I have to disagree with you as well, I thought it was a great way to make me *extremely* curious without giving anything away. It certainly won’t work for every game, but in this case, I thought it was perfect.

    • ROMhack2 says:

      Yeah, my first instinct was to scroll past the images just to get to the text but I think it’s fine given that they’re clearly trying to tie in the photography theme–a bit annoying to read but it works.

      That said, if all reviews were like this then they’d definitely have to change the URL to rockpapershotgun.tumblr.com

  9. BrotherSurplice says:

    This looks more inspired by the Stalker film rather than the games. Interesting, very interesting.

    (You all need to go and watch Stalker right now by the way)

    • April March says:

      Damn, I really do.

    • asthasr says:

      I think the sound effect for the train is directly from the film.

      • Don Reba says:

        Might also be directly from a train.

        • asthasr says:

          Sure, but trains have different speeds, different cadences, different engines. The one in the 35MM video sounds a lot like the one in Stalker, which was a prominent sound design element early in the film.

    • phelix says:

      It’s available for free on youtube. There is no excuse!

  10. Zelius says:

    You mention horror, but what can I expect? Jump scares? Psychological horror? Supernatural, or grounded in reality?

  11. abuzor says:

    Reads like Pathologic. I’m in!

  12. Raoul Duke says:

    It is more interested in questions of humanity than it is questions of science-fiction.

    Ugh. This is up there with “the real monster is man” etc. Boring. I can see men being monsters/humans being human out my window. Use your ability to craft fantastical 3D worlds to present something more interesting, please.

    Still, this looks interesting.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Jeez. Way to read, doctor.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      Bloody hell. Welcome to the party, Mr Pooper.

      • DuncUK says:

        I usually display my lack of interest by not engaging with things. I find it’s much less time consuming than complaining about everything I’ve no interest in.

  13. Premium User Badge

    alison says:

    Hmm, i saw this pop up in my Steam recommendations last week as a game i might like. I buy a lot of walking sims, but reading the reviews made it seem like this was more a survival game than a walking sim. It sure does look pretty, though. It’s back on my wishlist, but can anyone who’s played it already share what the grinding to walking ratio is?

  14. noom says:

    It’s a very linear experience. Sadly the gamey aspects of it are by far the weakest, generally involving “wander about aimlessly until you find the thing you need to progress”, as well as a couple of awkward shooty bits.

    Other than that, it’s very atmospheric if a little shonky. Fascinating but I’m not sure I share Alec’s enthusiasm.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    Shit I’ve always really wanted a mod/game that’s set in STALKER’s Chernobyl but where you play a photographer.

  16. Gryz says:

    Looks interesting. Looks like something I might enjoy. Thanks for the review.

    And then on the Steam page I read: does not support 21:9 monitors. Arghh. I have to make it a point to not buy games that don’t support 21:9. We’re in 2016. Adding 21:9 support should be easy in most engines. It gets really irritating when a games doesn’t support 21:9. The only way to teach them is by not buying those games. Sorry.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Really? That’s the big hangup? An aspect ratio?

      They’re a small studio, and it’s a game you say looks interesting. And it’s 13 bucks on Steam. So you’ll deny yourself the budget-priced experience, and them a sale, over an aspect ratio?

      • PenguinJim says:

        “So you’ll deny yourself the budget-priced experience, and them a sale, over an aspect ratio?”

        I see your point, but we have so many games available to us – more great experiences than we could possibly have the time for – that using aspect ratio as one selection criteria doesn’t reduce the amount of great games we’ll play.

        It’s not cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face – I’m sure Gryz won’t simply be sat in front of their monitor, arms folded, growling in annoyance for five hours as an alternative to 35MM. Instead, they’ll be playing another great game, in 21:9.

  17. malkav11 says:

    This is now part of the IndieGala Hump Day Bundle: link to indiegala.com

    $3.19 currently for the tier that includes it.

  18. Ginsoakedboy21 says:

    Now 70% off in the Steam Sale, amazingly. Only £2.99.

    • malkav11 says:

      On Indiegala you can pay about the same for 35MM plus Highrise Heroes (which was written about here on RPS a while back, rather complimentarily) and several other games. Steam keys, of course.

  19. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I don’t know that I’ve ever disagreed so strongly with a John Walker review. This game is wretched. The first 15 minutes that Walker finds so weak are easily its best moments- scenic and meditative, albeit bleak and unexplainably tense. The rest is filled with some of the worst first person shooting I’ve ever put up with, unforgivably bad QTE’s, boring vehicle sections that are literally on rails, and needle-in-a-haystack easter egg hunting “puzzles” performed in almost total darkness over and over again.

    The game is littered with doors you can’t open, which look exactly like the doors you can open. Paths you can follow that look just like paths you can’t follow. NPC’s you can interact with that look just like the NPC’s that have no reaction at all to you, one of the last remaining people on earth. All of these unsignaled dead-ends are magnified by the player’s molasses-like movement speed and lazy microsprints.

    The puzzles are mind-numbingly idiotic. In one, I’m told explicitly that “all of the rooms are locked”, then immediately told to “ransack the rooms for a power source”. Okay. Turns out one room isn’t locked, but it doesn’t have a power source. It has a tiny key, hidden in a drawer, in total darkness. That key opens a locked door, but only the locked door that causes your character to say “it is locked” when you try to open it.

    The “choice and consequence” John talks about is also obscure at best, and doesn’t extend to obvious things like “help this woman’s sister, even though it’s probably a trap?” No choice to make there, the game just decides that you get stabbed.

    And to wrap it all up, it has maybe the worst looking dog models I’ve ever seen in a game. They look more like robotic opossums than any dog I’ve ever seen.

  20. rikpro says:

    This is one of the few occasion where I have to completely disagree with an RPS’ review. For the whole game I lived with the impression of the developers saying :“Look, we’re giving you these mildly interesting (if a little hackneyed) surroundings to wander into, but we can’t be bothered with developing an actual narrative for you to play. You will also be provided with a painfully obvious beacon to follow, in the form of a concrete-faced, unflappable companion. In case you may be of an exploring disposition, we’ll make the aforementioned companion to unflinchingly follow his own path, no matter where you want to go, and to randomly blurt out pieces of the plot, whether or not you’re standing next to him, just to punish you for having the impudence to leave him alone. Anyway, if you’re stubborn enough to go off on your own, you’ll soon find some conveniently placed invisible walls (hey, it’s 1996 again!) to curb your exuberance. Ah, we’ll also put in some cringeworthy arcade sections for good measure.”