GG – 60 Seconds, Reatomized!

Introducing the challenge.

This is somewhat outside the usual pattern, as I went back to make sure I’d ticked it off after leaving this blog fallow for a long time.

60 Seconds, Reatomized!

Publisher/Creator: Robot Gentleman

Format: Strategy game

Released: 2019

Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Platform Played: PC (via Steam)

What is it?

60 Seconds, Reatomized! is a survival strategy game in which you play as one of the parents of a retro nuclear family who must direct and prioritise the welfare of the family members you bring into a fallout shelter with you. Every game opens with a 60 second countdown, during which you have to collect family members and supplies to dump down the ladder into your shelter before getting to it yourself. This is made harder by the awkward controls and comedic physics of the household objects that act as obstacles in your way. Once that 60 seconds is over, assuming you’ve made it to the shelter by then, you enter the game proper. You play through a series of decisions in which you send family members out to hunt for supplies, tackle unexpected complications and ration your food and water, with the intention that you and your family will survive long enough to be rescued. Reatomized is a remaster of the existing 60 Seconds! game, which I have not played.

How much have I played so far?

I played 71 minutes of Reatomized, including the tutorial. That covered the tutorial, one very short game that ended abruptly and one much longer game that I played to the family’s survival (on easy).

What did I think?

I was actually pleasantly surprised by Reatomized. I hadn’t heard of it before, and comedy games are a very dubious prospect for me, but I appreciated Reatomized‘s dark humour and surreal occurrences. I was a bit unimpressed that, from what I could tell, the amount of inventory space the family’s daughter takes up (3 as opposed to her mother’s 2) is a fat joke. But a lot isn’t made of it, so I don’t know for sure – honestly, I expected that it would be because she wouldn’t be separated from her tuba, given the fact that she starts the game playing it. Other than that, the humour was actually pretty good, harking back to Fallout‘s cheerful jabs at Americana and anti-Communist sentiment. It was a slightly surreal experience, playing a game about being isolated with your family while the UK is in lockdown for a global pandemic, especially since a lot of the plot points (characters getting ill with no medicine, conserving supplies, sending someone out to try and get food) feel a little close to (literal) home right now. But considering I’ve been drawn to rereading The Shining and House of Leaves, maybe it’s cathartic.

Reatomized taps into the love I have for darker games like This War of Mine and the boardgame Dead of Winter, where you have to carefully plan every action, but randomised events throw your plans for a loop. At first, Reatomized seemed so random that I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it – after all, where’s the strategy if you can’t possibly plan to mitigate eventualities? I really struggled with my first game and almost gave up because I got the mother and daughter of the family in the bunker and they immediately became too tired to go out and scavenge with no obvious cause. Big mood, but also not very engaging gameplay.

However, on my second run (these were both on easy, because I wanted to get an idea of the gameplay rather than attempting a harder difficulty and getting frustrated), I had a lot more luck. I managed to get all but the daughter down into the bunker and scavenging missions actually brought food and water home, which I hadn’t managed in the previous run. This was where the game really started to shine: keeping on eye on the supplies was useful, yes, but it was never so pressing that it was the absolute top priority. That gave me the space to take more risks in gameplay choices, and there were some excellent plotlines, like the cat that was rumoured to be strangely nefarious, and the twins who ended up recruiting the family into Definitely Not a Cult. Whereas in a game like This War of Mine, I might become emotionally attached to my characters and regret that I couldn’t save them, in this I was sending the father out into the wasteland at every opportunity with an evil chuckle because he had an injury that wouldn’t heal and he was another mouth to feed (but he kept getting very lucky and coming back).

It read more like interactive fiction with an element of randomness to the events than a strategy game by that point, and that made it much more interesting. It was a little frustrating when the game repeatedly told me I needed a radio to be my top priority so I could hear government broadcasts, but there was no way of increasing my likelihood of getting a radio beyond sending family members out to scavenge whenever possible (which gave me a chance of getting a radio, but was also exceedingly random), but the game also provided potential options for a good ending without relying on getting one specific RNG result. However, given my previous experience, it seems to have a fair degree of luck involved with whether you have a good, challenging, fun game or an endlessly frustrating on. That’s true of a lot of these kinds of games, but the lack of control over where your characters could go to scavenge, to increase or decrease their likelihood of getting certain goods, to improve their health or shrug off persistent negative effects, limited the strategy element a fair amount.

The other issue I had with the game was a minor but pervasive gripe: the soundtrack is good, but there are some ambient sounds that are really grating, like the sound of the tuba during the initial 60 seconds and the grainy blip of radiation readings when the world above is irradiated. While I get that the annoying sounds might be part of the comedy, I had to turn the sound off after a few days of radiation pips because they were aggravating me so much.

Will I play more?

Maybe – not because it isn’t enjoyable, but because I have so many other games to play. I am intrigued by what other stories there are to discover, and how the different family members, starting objects and events change things, but I also feel quite satisfied that I got a good idea of the game from the time I played. I am curious about the space version of the game, 60 Parsecs, since I would love to see what stories that setting produces, especially with these gameplay mechanics. It isn’t something I’ll be rushing back to, but that shouldn’t be seen as a disincentive to others: if it sounds like your kind of humour and your kind of game, it’s potentially worth a try.

Who would I recommend it to?

Anyone who likes…

  • Dark humour about 50’s America and nuclear apocalypse – it definitely captures the surreal nature of anti-Communist sentiment and jingoism beautifully
  • A much lighter game with similar strategy/story elements to This War of Mine but without the crushing despair and terrible moral choices
  • A pretty fun narrative game about choices and surreal storylines that seems like it has a lot of scope for different paths

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