I did a lot of talking at Gamescom, whether that be to developers or muttering to myself deliriously as I typed stuff up in the evening. Talking to devs especially is a wonderful thing, especially when you're playing their game and it resonates with you. But getting hands-on with an early portion of American Arcadia rendered me virtually silent, to the point where I had to apologise to the devs for being so quiet.
And I wasn't being rude; far from it! I was just so engrossed in the game's mixture of side-scrolling platforming and first-person puzzling. Keep this under surveillance, because I think it's going to be a real hit when it lands.
Amercian Arcadia's being developed by Out Of The Blue Games, the folks behind first-person puzzler Call Of The Sea. This time, they've ditched the 1930s South Pacific for a 70's retro-futuristic metropolis brimming with yellows and reds and jovial optimism. The citizens of Arcadia live a happy, fulfilling life! Except that it's all a massive lie, as I discovered while playing as Trevor Hills, an average office worker, who rocked up to work in Arcadia as per usual, only to have a very unusual time.
Without spoiling too much, Trevor discovered that his mate was mysteriously axed from work, and an unfamiliar voice warned him that if he didn't escape, his life would be in danger. Some We Happy Few vibes, here. The early sequence I played was shot like a documentary, with cutscenes of Trevor in an interrogation room, which would then flit to him running for his life, before a switch back to the present, all without being a confused mess. It was a slick operation, which was shot beautifully, as the camera panned or zoomed out to accentuate Arcadia's scale.
I was genuinely gripped from the moment I stepped into Trevor's shoes. American Arcadia steered me along effortlessly, with gorgeous environments and a cast of strong voice actors (folks from Firewatch, Spiderman 1&2, and Cyberpunk to name a few) helping lend an air of authenticity to the drama that unfolded. One section saw me enter a dark warehouse, with malfunctioning spotlights inspired by the ever-eery 2D platformer Inside.
What I hadn't anticipated was the ol' switcheroo. That weird voice I heard at the start? I could control them in the first-person, as they aided Trevor in his grand escape plan from a gloomy office overlooking Arcadia. Rain lashed the windows and I watched the feeds of security cameras that tracked each corridor. I had to disable these cameras, then get the keycode to access the control room. With that, I could manipulate the lights in Trevor's warehouse and help him see where he needed to go. Genius. And more of the perspective switching was to come, as Trevor broke into a sprint, and I needed to swing him just out of reach of the cops by rotating a crane at the last second, or cut off routes for the baddies to get him.
All the while, I was practically silent as I bounced between the platforming sections as Trevor and first-person puzzles as his mysterious ally. From what I've played, American Arcadia is shaping up to be one of those experiences you'll devour in a session or two. It's a clever, cinematic take on a puzzler with real heart and a story I'm desperate to complete.
For more Gamescom coverage, be sure to check out our Gamescom 2022 hub for all the latest news, impressions from the show floor and more.