“Some car accidents are caused by the ignorance or disbelief of the fact that a driver’s eyes and mind can be thousands of kilometres apart.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana
The Wreck is an emotional 3D visual novel and interactive fiction that follows failed screenwriter Junon as she experiences one of the most pivotal days of her life. Players must relive the past and change the present in a bid to successfully shape the future.
Developer: The Pixel Hunt
Released: 14th March 2023
Platforms: Windows, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S, Switch
Available on: Steam, GOG, PlayStation, Microsoft, eShop
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
NOTE: The Wreck depicts a car accident and deals with difficult themes such as sickness, grief, toxic relationships and self-harm.
The Wreck features quite a hard-hitting narrative that will pull on heartstrings right from the start. The game begins in a hospital with Junon receiving some bad news about her mother, she is subsequently faced with the most difficult of decisions. As the present unfolds it is interrupted by pertinent and often harrowing visions of the past that will influence Junon and affect current events.
The interwoven storylines of the past, present and future are cleverly drip-fed to the player creating suspense and intrigue as well as building an emotional tension that really heightens the impact of certain revelations. Likewise, the distinct characterisation of the various NPCs and the protagonist herself is done gradually, creating a well-rounded and complete impression of each of their personalities and traits. This really helps move the story along and adds a strong sense of believability to the various situations Junon finds herself in.
The Wreck plays much like other visual novels and works of interactive fiction and in terms of the present, most of the gameplay consists of clicking through dialogue and making choices. This is dual-layered as the protagonist’s inner monologue is also running and choices here can affect the dialogue options which makes things much more interesting. Oftentimes the present conversation will turn sour or something will go wrong, it is at this point that Junon begins reliving her past where players can forward and rewind events to uncover details and influence the present.
In terms of interaction, the gameplay is quite minimal overall. However, the player gets a real sense of influencing and progressing the story from the few actions and decisions they carry out and the limited mechanics fit well with the style of the game and the story being told, adding to the experience rather than distracting from the emotive and well-constructed narrative.
The Wreck has a very distinct visual style made up of somewhat low-poly models and vibrant colour palettes. Despite the general minimalism, there is a good amount of detail in the artwork and scenes are easy to decipher. This is aided by the effects that are added in different sections, such as the motion blur during the crash and the way the memories appear to need old-fashioned 3D glasses with layers of red and green that don’t quite line up.
The animation is deliberately stilted and features stiff, infrequent mouth movements for speech and very limited character movement alongside camera panning and the sparkling of dust in the air to help indicate lighting. This works well with the artwork and both complement and accentuate one another making for a unique and pleasing overall aesthetic that suits the gameplay and narrative.
In terms of the audio, the game is similarly minimalistic with subtle sound effects and ambient noise as well as a selection of lo-fi- tracks that range from upbeat pop to more dramatic 80’s style synth numbers. This provides a fitting soundtrack to the game’s narrative and proves to be emotive without being intrusive.
The Wreck has a consistent minimalism in terms of both stylisation and gameplay that really emphasises the detailed story and intriguing characters, which are undoubtedly the highlights of the game. The themes and storyline both tackle some challenging and often upsetting topics but this is done sensitively and in such a way that feels true to life making this title especially poignant. Additionally, the audio and visual elements are well-designed and work in tandem with the gameplay and experience as a whole. Overall, this is a top-notch visual novel that provides a good amount of interaction whilst not diluting the narrative. I highly recommend this game to fans of emotionally charged interactive fiction.
Looking for more emotive games to play? You might like these reviews:
A Memoir Blue – An Emotional Dive into the Past – A Walk With Yiayia – An Emotional Stroll Around the Neighbourhood – Ghost on the Shore: Brand New Emotional Exploration Game