I’m always a sucker for a good story. So when The Pixel Hunt team reached out to me to cover their latest narrative-driven release, The Wreck, I was already sold. Taking one look at the reveal trailer, the Telltale-inspired graphics and presentation instantly brought positive images to mind of 2021’s Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo, which arguably had one of the most captivating stories I’d ever experienced in a video game. And being the (mostly) eternal optimist I am, I was hopeful that The Wreck’s tale would reach those same heights.
Staying on Track
Straight out of the gate, the indie/hipster vibe is strong, yet firmly grounded in its storytelling. Right down to it’s sweet pastel, Life is Strange-themed atmosphere and inner-thought narration that’s been popularised by every modern high school Netflix drama on planet Earth. The lead character and troubled writer, Junon is of course day-dreaming about Ryan Gosling, romantic comedies and all sorts of tween-related wonderings, while her mother, Marie is facing a severe medical crisis which could possibly prove fatal; a striking juxtaposition that shows where Junon’s priorities currently lie.
Throughout it’s 5-hour story, The Wreck surprisingly balances these two tones with grace, and this same level of polish shines over into the writing and voice-acting department as well. Even if the main characters waffle on at points, the main themes of intergenerational relationships and making sure friends/family know they’re loved are almost always front and centre. The latter’s powerful message is steadily explored through Junon’s past/present-day issues, slowly revealing breadcrumbs of the story as the bigger picture starts to reveal what’s at stake.
It all stems from the titular ‘wreck’ that’s shown towards the beginning. Junon gets into her trusty red automobile after a particularly troubling situation (which I won’t spoil) and finds herself swerving out of control, spectacularly flipping the car—and her life—over in the process. The pieces of her past then start spilling out from the machine’s insides during a dramatic, slow-mo sequence, prompting the player to explore these intriguing mementos in further detail. That all being said, while it is cool seeing this epic car flip out at the start, having to watch the same scene around 10 times or so (can’t remember the exact amount) quickly removes any sense of tension during these events.
Up in Flames
This also ties into The Wreck’s weakest chain, the gameplay. After someone has selected their chosen memento, ALL they have to do is rotate the camera repeatedly on-rails, then press the A or X button whenever some fancy text appears. Repeat till the cows come home—I can’t believe how mind-numbing this gets. With other games that have very little player agency like Doki Doki Literature Club, you at least need to think of ways to solve a problem. Though in The Wreck, it doesn’t deviate from it’s formula at all. Aside from a few dialogue options at key moments—which admittedly, does bring some replayability—it fundamentally feels rather shallow and basic.
Doesn’t help that the cinematic camera direction seems off at points. The Wreck either relies on the same, exact shots too often or lingers a little too long on it’s super static-looking character models. I’m aware that The Pixel Hunt devs are a relatively small team, but this game can definitely come across as ‘budget’ at times. That being said, it’s interesting to see Junon’s past explored through time-shift perspective changes and how each scene metaphorically/literally transitions between each key moment, even if they are predominantly on rails.
With it’s blend of serious, yet indie/hipster graphics and presentation, The Wreck’s polished writing and powerful message of ‘letting others know they’re loved’ is something that Telltale or visual novel fans should enjoy. While the on-rails gameplay is about as basic as it gets, this 5-hour drama has just enough staying power and replayability in it’s dialogue options to justify another go around or two.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
The Wreck is worth checking out for those who enjoy visual novels or the Telltale style of approach to storytelling. It does feel a bit budget at times; the static character models and camera direction could’ve used more work, and the gameplay becomes exceptionally dull before you know it. However, the story and writing are where this game shines. Junon’s French-Canadian accent is very, very endearing too, I must say.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by The Pixel Hunt. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.