Choices – Bandersnatch

When games promise expansive stories these days, a question that always follows is how many different endings it has. From a player’s perspective – they have to gauge whether the game is worth the cost by the hours they could spend with it. That’s the replay value of the game coupled by the quality of its gameplay. However, these excessive promises more often do not deliver. Players leave with complaints of how their decisions rarely affect the endings at all, or that they are funneled into the same ending everyone gets.

Bandersnatch start us off with the mundane – breakfast for the day. It scratches into the viewer’s curiosity as to how this decision could affect anything at all. Do the music choices only affect the story and character’s mood? Or something more sinister? They escalate as the story progresses compounded by the intensifying sound design and cinematography. It would take sharp dives into more insanity but still leave questions open as for its causes. Reality or delusions? The rich landscape of 1984, which has fascinated today’s audience, gives us a lot to pull from. These range from the occult, parallel universe theories, secret government experiments, or maybe a mix of everything.

Some choices, however, are not influences to an ending but rather abrupt endings themselves. They halt the story’s progress and do not move to resolve anything. The viewer is just pointed back to a previous branch. For me, this was a bit of a flaw. I would call these dead ends. They don’t add to the appeal of the ‘multiple endings’ because there are no implications of what happens after. It just leaves an aftertaste of the writers not being able to extrapolate any further consequences. What happens if the computer breaks? Not a clue. I would have loved to see more of the smaller nudges in the story to move it into different results at the same point in the future. What would have happened at the deadline?

There is no big upheaval in the endings of the Bandersnatch story. Their world moves on. Whatever conspiracies that might have been unearthed are silenced again. The tale becomes an urban legend. Told in whispers, repeated by the curious. And perhaps that is one of the best ways it would live on. Like with our own modern myths.

Two and a half stars out of five. There are fringes of more interesting and more insane story threads presented to us but are never explored deeper. To echo one of the reviews of the game – the backstory surrounding the development is more engaging than the end product. The tech they used to achieve the seamless switching from choices and consequences in the stream was very well made. The concept of the dead ends that force you to backtrack just didn’t sit well with me. There was also a lack of a better seek function to go through previous choices without playing from the beginning. The most fun I had, though, was going back and replaying to unlock the third options that were hidden well.

For an aside – as a developer, I wasn’t a fan of the implication of going through mental issues and drugs to make great games. Bad management and lack of self discipline can lead to worse products – a fact that was only glossed over. The first branching ‘team’ path is a viable option in the industry. A good streamlined game can be done with proper communication. Individual burnout can be avoided by not burying yourself in work, taking breaks, and adding some variety to old routines. But then again, that’s not what the entire show was about.

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