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The Drifter is lovely, nasty stuff

A point-and-click with real impact.

I played the demo for The Drifter right after I played the demo for Roki, and I think it was the perfect lead-in. Both games are point-and-click adventures, but while Roki's demo is gentle and quiet, an adventure laid across a bucolic world glittering with snow, The Drifter is fast and loud and not, as they say, screwing around.

As the title suggests this is a noirish affair set amongst the homeless community. You play Mick, who's trying to get by in a sinister world where violence is constantly itching to erupt. The demo's short and memorable - it surprised me several times. I don't want to spoil any of that: it's wonderfully evocative and sharply done.

What I can talk about is the control scheme, which took a while to get my head around, but is actually kind of brilliant. As you move through the game's grimy, pixelated environments, you can push the right stick out in any direction to highlight the interactive objects around you. To interact with one you them squeeze and release the right trigger. All of this works well with the item system, which sees you rooting through your pack with the bumpers and then activating the item with another squeeze of the right trigger.

By the end of the demo I was convinced. It's thematically ideal for such a tense game, I think: it feels like you're constantly grabbing the world and yanking it towards you. The conversation system is similarly punchy, as you unlock new topics through your actions in the world and then select them as little images when you're chatting to people.

This is a world with texture as well as drama, and the demo manages to mix empathy in with all the pulpiness. It's the kind of demo you don't so much finish as feel like you're physically emerging from. Lovely, nasty stuff.

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