Paul Raschid, the creative force behind FMV games like Five Dates and The Complex, has just released his latest project though Aviary Studios: The Gallery. We played the PlayStation 4 version.
A few years ago, the FMV genre had a bit of a revival, but it’s not easy to produce games like that in a period with Covid – though we’ve seen some interesting takes like Night Book. We actually talked to director Paul Raschid about The Gallery a while ago, discussing part of the creative process involved in a game like this. The premise is certainly original: The Gallery is about a hostage situation inside an art gallery, but the twist is that the narrative jumps back and forth in time with storylines that are separated by 40 years of history.
To those based in the UK (which is where the story takes place), these periods (2021 and 1981) will stand out as rather eventful. In 1981 Margaret Thatcher’s popularity was at an all-time low and economic recession was very real, while the UK of 2021 has to contend with the effects of Brexit and a global pandemic. The Gallery captures that zeitgeist, going beyond a simple hostage story in the process.
It doesn’t involve these social elements as padding though, as The Gallery is a rather streamlined experience that clocks in at under two hours – and that’s for completing both timelines. There’s some replay value to be found in the fact that your choices can lead to several different story branches and endings, but like many FMV releases this is a short game no matter how you look at it. Completionists will have a wonderful time with this one though, as the game features an impressive eighteen different endings across its two narratives. Our experience is that scenes start feeling overly familiar after a second or third playthrough, but having replay value is always a plus.
From a creative point of view, having the same cast of actors portray the characters in both narratives is an interesting choice, with Anna Popplewell and George Blagden assuming the lead roles. As with other FMV you’ll make choices that affect their path through the story, though if you don’t want the time pressure or having to make quick decisions you can also have the game pause and wait for your input before moving along.
Considering its short running time, there’s an impressively large number of actors – but this also means many of them get very little time on screen, so it’s hard to relate to many of them outside of the two main protagonists. Perhaps this also has to do with the art gallery setting, which is something that also features heavily in the storyline, making this a bit of a niche entry in the FMV space. It’s well acted and produced though, and it’s available at a budget price point. Fans of FMV titles should certainly pick this one up.