Please welcome our new contributor, Magdalena Kolodziej! Magdalena is a big action/adventure fan and is currently studying Creative Writing out of the University of Greenwich, London.
After a global epidemic that took place before the opening of 35mm, I was left with a friend and a camera as my only companions for my journey. For strange and unexplained reasons, we are immune to this epidemic, which leads us to travel this post-apocalyptic setting of rural Russia.
Essentially, 35mm by Russian developer Sergey Sergeich is walking simulator with a small amount of combat. Before being introduced to the two travellers, I was truly impressed with the atmosphere, and that impression didn’t change as I kept on playing. The sounds of footsteps altered based on the surface, which I definitely did not expect, and even the surroundings changed that sound. If the character was in a large, empty room entirely made of concrete, the echo was there, and so was the grit under his feet. It was a pleasure to listen to such realistic sounds. In some areas of the game, it was quite horrifying. The screeching metal with loud footsteps in a dark metro tunnel helped create a lot of immersion when combined with the eerie darkness.
The opening of 35MM attempts to connect with the player in a way that shows that it is mainly about cherishing the environment and its detailed design, and each environment varies. Slowly walking through a long stretching forest with the quiet companion. Admittedly these do seem a little unnatural and don’t add much meaning to the characters. Through the majority of the game, the travels seem quite awkward. With that in mind, it is pretty hard to feel any sort of empathy towards the two since there’s no meaningful connection being made.
In terms of the rustic environment and its components, I found the animals and weather the most believable. I’d imagine that some wild bears would realistically be found deep in forests hunting for prey, like the travellers. When travelling the abandoned roads I even came across a cute little puppy, and then later on bumped into some goats. There was a nice variety of animals in the game, and the circumstances they lived in really showed on their thin bodies. And the weather? Sometimes it was sunny, sometimes foggy, sometimes there was a storm, and the courses of day and night worked perfectly well. That natural aspect of the game was one that is truly enjoyable.
Although 35mm doesn’t really encourage it (despite technically being in its name), there is an option to take photographs. If I enjoy a game or love something that I see, I will try to get a nice screenshot of it, this game made it so much easier, and rather than pressing print screen it was a whole lot more interactive.
The story seemed pretty original, and from my expectations of games that follow an epidemic of some sort, I was glad to find that zombies weren’t a thing here. Yet some of the dialogue seemed a little simple, and a bit poorly translated. Perhaps it is the language barrier that made it a little difficult to understand the motives of the characters.
The dialogue between the main character and his companion, an NPC, seems very brief. That really made their relationship questionable. Most of the NPC’s lines consist of “you need to get this item to get from point A to B”. But there were other bits of conversations that were a reflection on their existence and not just some sort of hint to the player about the pair’s survival. Even a few of the letters that can be found throughout abandoned buildings speak only about trying to keep on living, as well as everything that obstructs that goal.
Sadly the Russian to English translation isn’t very fluent, but the game just about gets away with it. It almost seems like broken up poetry, which definitely reflects on the post-apocalyptic world that barely holds itself together. Although, there are no happy moments in the game, but then again that can hardly ever be expected of a game from this genre.
The player is always given the chance to explore a little, until being chased by an angry and hungry bear! Without exploring the vast landscapes, the game doesn’t last for very long, as the story is brief. Personally upon discovering the option to take photographs of the gorgeous surroundings, I decided to admire all the gorgeous sights.
Even though the story itself is quite a mystery, and promises made between the main and the NPC are very secretive to the player, the journey is worth it. The only things that give at least a little bit of insight to their story were the flashbacks of both companions. Yet by the end the story still is unclear, it is up to the player to piece the story together.
Speaking of pieces that need to be put together, the game has a few puzzles that need solving. Once we meet another surviving character on our route, we end up helping a child put together a set of jigsaw puzzles, now that isn’t a usual mechanic for a survival walking simulator. It is clear that the creator wanted to piece together many aspects of famous games into something different. Interaction with other people within this game really reflects on the real world, even though the conversations weren’t longer than two lines. There was conflict, there was desperation to find loved ones, and a desperation to find enough resources to survive for as long as possible. What would certainly improve the experience of the game would be at least a reaction to seeing other survivors, or even an option to talk to some of them manually. It would add a little bit more background to the characters.
Combat, although rare, was still a part of this game. It definitely could have been expanded on a little more than just spamming E at the right time. For example fighting a bear isn’t exactly what every person would want to face, which is why running away into shelter was always a nice option to have. Since people are within the game, and people need their resources desperately, brawls do break out.
Based on all these aspects, the 35mm really excelled in creating a bleak post-apocalyptic atmosphere with the addition of extremely detailed sound effects. Based on the idea of survival, it would be nice if there was a little bit more background to the story that wouldn’t be entirely based on flashbacks and cryptic conversations.
You can find 35mm on Steam plus it’s on special as part of the Steam Summer Sale. Go check it out and let us know what you think.
Magdalena Kolodziej is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Be sure to say hi on Twitter @magda_0019.