In The Curfew, from Channel 4 and written by Kieron Gillen, a point-and-click tale of civil rights, it's 9:00 PM and all good citizens are home and logged in under the government's watchful eye. Except for you. You're on the run, and holding on to some very sensitive information that a lot of very dangerous people would love to get their hands on... and nobody will miss you if you wind up missing. With nowhere left to turn, you find yourself hiding out in a safehouse with four other people who all have their own concerns.
Play simply by using your mouse to interact with the screen. Small icons will pop up when you move your cursor over certain objects or people, and you can click to take action. Your primary tool is the com device in the lower right corner of the screen, which you can not only use to receive calls, but also to search for "air tags"; electronic signatures embedded in your environment that can help you find clues or provide more information. The game only saves between story scenes, so you might want to wait for a break in the action if you plan to stop for a while.
The goal is ultimately to figure out who you can trust to give the information you're carrying. Someone who will "do the right thing". Starting with Lucas, you'll speak to each of them and play through earlier events in their days that have lead them to where they are now. They all have reasons to hate the government and the Curfew, but is that any proof that they wouldn't turn you in given the chance, especially if doing so might help them? At certain intervals in each person's story, you're given the chance to ask them questions that will influence how they view you. Showing concern, empathy, and cleverness might cause them to trust you more, while asking stupid or insulting questions could cause their opinion of you to plummet.
Analysis: The Curfew has been pinging away on my radar for some time now; if there's one thing I love, it's intelligent social commentary, and The Curfew manages to make you think while it entertains. Kieron Gillen, who handled the writing, skirts up against the edge of painting a world too comic book-ishly overblown to be believable or relateable, occasionally forgoing genuine emotion for flash and cartoonish villains. Then again, it's relatively easy to dismiss the setting as being far-fetched when you've been lucky enough to live in a place and time where your rights have never been compromised. As futuristic as the setting might seem, there are some clever touches that bring the whole thing uncomfortably close to reality. The anti-homosexual propaganda slapped on a building. The condescending treatment of lower-class citizens. The outright unfairness and suspicion heaped on foreigners. We might not be "there" yet, but not everything about it is as far-fetched as it appears on the surface, which is an unsettling thought.
As a piece of interactive art and a commentary on civil liberties, The Curfew is top notch. As a game? Not so much. The minigames aren't much fun, and besides being clunky to play, don't fit well within the game itself. Is forcing us to fiddle with a wobbly slingshot really more effective than ye olde "use slingshot on security camera"? It's really more story than game, since there aren't any real puzzles to solve, and you're kept on a fairly narrow set of rails the entire time. It's hard to really get a sense that you're having any sort of impact on the story. Thankfully, now that it's out of beta, the game plays a lot more smoothly and has shed most of the painful bugs that dogged its initial release.
Of course, there's no denying that the end product looks amazing, typically very well acted with interesting characters and a great soundtrack. The way the separate stories each person tells you begin to intertwine and influence each other is interesting to watch and handled quite well, and there's a wonderfully wry sense of dark humour present. The environments are very well done, and the semi-futuristic devices you'll see actually aren't all that unbelievable in an otherwise familiar setting.
One of the worst things you can do with your life is to not only forget how lucky you are... but to ignore how unfortunate other people may be. Even with its flaws, The Curfew is still worth checking out. Maybe you're lucky enough to be in a position where your rights have never been violated. Maybe you've never thought about what you would do if they were, or what happens to people who have been on that side of the coin. Maybe you should.
Thanks to RedRevolver, Mike, Jackson, and Andrew for sending this one in!