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Preview: Ghoul Britannia

9 Oct 2019

All art is political. I know a lot of people try to claim that games should strive to be apolitical, but anything they say will be flavored by the biases of their creators, and these biases are frequently political. Sometimes these biases are subtle, like Dead Rising’s (Or Dawn of the Dead’s) use of zombies in a shopping mall as a critique of rampant consumerism, while others are more blatant such as Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’ take on fascism on American soil.

With that said, Ghoul Britannia is firmly in the latter camp. It’s a point-and-click adventure game developed by Binary Space for the PC set in a world where Brexit has triggered a zombie apocalypse.

In what little I got to play for the demo, Ghoul Britannia made its opinion known: Between the nation’s Prime Minister being named Nigel Frottage, Brexit leading to the downfall of British society, and the admission of xenophobia as a driving force for Brexit, this is probably not the game to play if you’re easily offended by leftist policies.

There’s more to the game than just taking aim at current politics however. In what I was able to play for the demo, I got to experience two characters with different takes on story: Hope Andrews, a survivor just trying to survive another day and constantly dealing with the fact that even in the face of an apocalypse jerks will still be jerks, and Dave Gorey, a zombie that has somehow managed to retain his sanity, who is trying to get to the bottom of why the zombies (which were supposed to just be an easy solution to the labor shortage) became such a disaster, and frequently deals with dark humor as he comes to grips with his new reality.

Unfortunately, a number of the puzzle solutions can feel a little obtuse. One glaring one that comes to mind involves an object that, when first inspected, sounds like it would be useless. Only once you examine a different thing entirely that doesn’t mention the first thing can you find a use for it. There’s a few other examples here and there of moon logic where the solution, while it made sense once I knew it, nevertheless involved me just trying every random thing until I hit what the game wanted.

That said, one can argue that’s simply the price to pay for enjoying a point-and-click adventure game. There’s a certain joy to be found in putting the pieces together, and the writing genuinely feels like a reward. Despite the zombies, despite the politics, Ghoul Britannia shows itself as a comedy, albeit one that uses absurdism and gallows humour to find levity in an otherwise bleak situation.

Being a point-and-click adventure game, the success really depends on the quality of the writing (and to a lesser extent the puzzles), but what I’ve seen so far seems very promising. It’s charming, funny, and I find the mysteries compelling enough to keep going. They’ve certainly put their best foot forward.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where Ghoul Britannia goes in Early Access. The demo set up more mysteries than answers, and I must admit I’m curious about what they’ll do with the premise. Is the entire disaster a sinister Tory plot even more ghastly than making the dead labor long after their death? Will they go a more centrist route and portray the Labour party or even the EU as having a hand in making it worse? Or is the start of the game the sole place for politics in this title? Time will tell, time will tell.

Preview copy provided by Binary Space for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.