I love the setting for The Breakout, an adventure game that's just entered its last week on Kickstarter. The pressure-cooker confines of a Second World War POW camp seems the perfect focus for a tale of ingenuity and escape, while Pixel Trip Studios, the team behind the project, has created a wonderfully loose-limbed graphical style that manages to elegantly update those great old 1940s propaganda posters for the era of Threadless T-shirts. Up until now, however, the Kickstarter campaign's been struggling: with 6 days left at the time of writing, Pixel Trip's over Ł35,000 short of its Ł49,5000 goal.
Enter the playable demo. It's a brief affair, and it's been a long time coming, but to me it suggests that Pixel Trip's looking capable of delivering on its ambitious pitch. You can play it here and decide for yourself. It will only take a few minutes.
While most of The Breakout concerns escape artist Guy Kassel's inventive attempts to bust free of enemy captivity, the team's opted for a prologue sequence with the demo, since the game's camp setting itself is still being planned out. Players join the action as Kassel's plane goes down in flames over rural Europe. He awakens to find his leg pinned to the cockpit and a simple tutorial puzzle laid out before him. Once he's gotten himself free, Kassel will need to explore the nearby environment and work out how to put some serious distance between himself and his downed aircraft. And are those guards' voices rising in the distance?
It's not fair to spoil anything else - The Breakout's demo is stronger on world building than it is on challenge in any case. There's room for more incidental detailing and a handful of red herrings, I think, but this basic puzzle's already enlivened by the things that The Breakout looks likely to excel at - atmosphere delivered through evocative art and a constant thrum of underlying tension. The evening sunset glows a deep red in the distance, while the pine trees that make up a small copse threaten to engulf Kassel as he ventures further into the landscape. Up ahead, golden light pours from the windows of a small farmhouse - but is it friend or foe inside?
Inventory management seems a simple affair at this early point in the game, with a click of Kassel's backpack icon showing you everything you're carrying before another click allows you to use items. It will be interesting to see how the system develops once Kassel's been captured and is sneaking around a camp securing the provisions he'll need to support various different methods of escape. Speaking of which, the current demo is extremely linear, as far as I can tell. That's understandable given the time constraints, but I'm eager to find out just how flexible the rest of the game will be - and what kind of war stories I'll be able to swap with my fellow escapees afterwards.
The Breakout's got an awful lot of ground to make up in a few days, then, but a free demo - even at this late point in proceedings - feels like a positive move. Kickstarter's been very kind to adventure games already, and one as intriguing as this definitely deserves a look.
The Breakout is up on Kickstarter right now.