A few minutes into my American Arcadia (opens in new tab) hands-on demo, it quickly becomes apparent something very strange is going on. Beginning with 2.5D side-scrolling, I play as Trevor Hills, a senior account manager at a corporation called Inac. I’m just about to begin another day at work by walking through the idyllic-looking company tower to reach my desk. With a retro-futuristic take on the 1970s, I soak in all of the kitsch interior decor of the big office building, which comes to life with red, orange, and yellow hues.
Fellow employees milling around the place sport flared trousers and signature, era-appropriate haircuts, with me greeting some of them as I go. When I finally reach Trevor’s desk complete with a CRT PC monitor, everything begins to unravel. What begins as a seemingly normal workday takes a sharp turn into the realms of a Truman Show-like scenario, with Trevor suddenly being instructed to escape the life he thought he knew.
After controlling Trevor for a short while, my perspective shifts into the first-person, as I take control of another character in a 3D office environment who’s trying to help the Inac employee flee. I’ve only gotten a taste of American Arcadia from Call of the Sea developer Out of the Blue Games so far, but it has already more than piqued my interest with its mysterious, not-so-utopian setting, appealing ’70s aesthetic, and mix of playstyles.
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When American Arcadia was first announced, the synopsis for the puzzle-platformer revealed that the metropolis setting is home to citizens who don’t realize they’re actually existing inside of a TV show as contestants. While I don’t get to learn much about what’s truly going on before the demo draws to a close, the portion I get to play certainly leaves me with a lot of questions I can’t wait to have answered. When Trevor begins to follow the instructions of a mysterious figure who’s trying to help him escape, I emerge from the office into a fourth-wall breaking backstage area, where some puzzle elements come into play. After moving a box of equipment to use as a platform, I find myself in front of an elevator, and this is where things really start to get really interesting.
The camera pulls back to show Trevor’s current position on a monitor, and I’m now playing in first-person as the very character who was acting as my guide moments before. The transition catches me by surprise, but it’s a welcome change of pace that gives me an opportunity to try out something different. With the chance to explore and interact with objects to learn more about the environment, I also sample a hacking puzzle in order to help Trevor progress.
With the goal of getting into a server room in what appears to be an area of offices behind the scenes of Arcadia, I’m required to hack and upload looping footage into surveillance cameras dotted around the hallway to avoid detection. With a phone in my hand that shows different viewpoints in the area, I need to connect each camera to the correct corresponding views shown. Once I’m in the server room and on the PC, the perspective then seamlessly returns me back to Trevor and the side-scrolling format.
What follows sees me sneak through backstage areas, run from pursuers, and even complete an environmental puzzle in my bid for freedom. I only really get to scratch the surface of American Arcadia’s story before the demo draws to a close, but I’m keen to find out how Trevor’s journey will unfold and what truths I can uncover in this high-stakes televised reality. I love the mash-up of different playstyles and how it makes both of the characters’ perspectives feel interconnected thanks to the way it naturally transitions between them during my hands-on session. While I’ve only played for just a short while during the Tribeca Festival demo, America Arcadia has quickly become one of my most anticipated upcoming indie releases. This is definitely one to watch out for.
American Arcadia is set to come to PC, but no release date has been announced as of yet. For more, check out our As Dusk Falls preview, an upcoming interactive drama that holds a mirror up to your soul.