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Bright and breezy horror hotel thingy Roman Sands RE:Build gets an intoxicating demo

Paratopic developers head to the tropics

A dialogue screen in Roman Sands RE:Build, showing a character musing that tomorrow is always better than today
Image credit: Serenity Forge

Paratopic was a muddy, blood-filled VHS cassette of a game, a game of midnight highways, pinched, pixellated faces and acidic service station lighting. The next game from developer Arbitrary Metric, Roman Sands RE:Build, is... very different, at least on the surface.

The first Act of the new Steam demo sees you staggering onto the beach below some kind of tropical resort. You wander up past the pools to the cavernous lobby and are immediately set upon by haggard guests, who appear to think you're a member of staff. So you become a member of staff, fetching margaritas, tracking down the check-in ledger and running downstairs to adjust the boiler settings. You earn XP from quests towards employee ranks that unlock useful items at vending machines. And you try to work out what you're doing here, and why everybody's so terrified of the sun. I haven't deciphered the mystery yet.

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The art direction is a hedonistic wash of powder-purples and sickly metallic shades, its Paradise Killer-esque concrete hung with naff blow-ups of the Mona Lisa and other canonical works that are mostly encountered nowadays on Getty Images. The guests - most of whom are absolutely begging to be smothered in their beds - look like dolls with pipecleaner limbs, but appear in dialogue as gnarly anime portraits floating against a sea of mercury. The music is constantly starting you up and slamming you to a halt, with tracks giving way to each other abruptly, and jingling trails of speed-up collectibles to sprint along.

The whole thing feels over-caffeinated and strung out, molten sugar leaking from its pores, in a way I haven't experienced since bidding on xeno-hearts in Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator. A smaller flourish: the aiming reticule is composed of white specks that rotate around each other in opposite directions when you pan the view, which makes looking around feel like twisting a cog in some mechanism you can't fully perceive. There's a day-night cycle, too: moving between parts of the hotel advances the clock, and when the sun goes down you must abandon tasks-in-progress and return to the sea, where a gorgeous supergiant star awaits you.

And this is just Act 1. Make it to Act 2, and suddenly you're playing a game set in some kind of underwater outpost - like Iron Lung if Iron Lung had graced the cover of an Ibiza compilation. Somebody wakes you by telling you that your cow has died. You stumble from your bunk and start fiddling with O2 levels, so as to unlock chambers elsewhere in the facility. Beyond one of the portholes, there is a huge, floating effigy of a woman. I wonder if all that has anything to do with the miniature solar system I discovered in that beachhouse earlier.

Arbitrary Metric describe Roman Sands as, deep breath, an "ADVENTURE GACHA PUZZLE APOCALYPSE VISUAL NOVEL SIMULATION HORROR TRIP". It's perfectly ghastly, and quite the thing. Here's the demo link - I can't wait to play more.

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