Developer: Bojan Brbora
Publisher: 4PM Game
Release Date: July 9th, 2014
Available On: PC
Many games are now seeking to try and tell deeper narratives than they have ever done so in the past. It’s an admirable thing, and games like Dear Esther and The Stanly Parable are showing excellent ways to do this. 4PM very much wants to join that crowd, but all it really manages to do is show why such a game requires a ton of work.
4PM’s story centers around a woman named Caroline. A horrible drunk, Caroline spends her days getting drunk at work, then goes home to get drunk at clubs. Occasionally she has mysterious visions of herself driving a car with an old man in the back seat. There’s really nothing to the plot. Caroline spends all her time getting drunk, and the moral of the story basically seems to be “alcoholism is bad.” Thanks game, wouldn’t have figured that out without you. Since 4PM is only about 20 minutes long you would think it would put as much of it to use as possible. But no, a lot of the game is spent on absolutely nothing. There’s a pointless club scene, there’s a pointless taxi scene, hell nearly everything besides the very last scene in the game could have been cut. That very last scene basically loads a ton of exposition and plot twists into a machine gun, then fires them at the player as fast as possible. It’s all nonsense and only manages to further show how poorly written and planned 4PM’s plot is.
The gameplay doesn’t hold up much better. First, Caroline is almost always drunk in every scene I played, so I had to get used to wildly swinging cameras and everything being blurry. I guess this is supposed to reinforce how much of an alcoholic she is, but honestly the scenes in which she was and wasn’t drunk seemed like a total crap-shot. A scene were Caroline just woke up has her stumbling around drunk, but after she quickly downs a couple bottles of alcohol at work she’s totally okay. The only real controls in the game are to move around and interact with things the game lets me interact with. I also could dance at one point, when the game said “Q to Dance”. Turns out it meant just press Q, as when I held it down I got the sound effects of Caroline screaming to endlessly loop. Fantastic.
There is a few rare gameplay segments in 4PM, but it’s all really poorly done. One scene involves Caroline getting sick at a club and having to find a toilet, giving me 45 seconds to do so. If I failed this (which was easy because it turns out the bathroom is in the totally opposite direction of the sign. Because there are people blocking the way the sign points, and Caroline can’t say “please move”) then Caroline would barf on the floor and I’d get a game over, which seems really silly because she’s just going to barf in the toilet so I’m not sure why it matters. A later scene has Caroline trying to avoid her boss (who seriously looks like a vampire) so she can sneak out of work to get to the bar. The boss just walks in a big circle so it’s as simple as just staying behind him until he turns around, ducking into a cubical, then waiting until he passes so I can leave and finish the segment. Just to show that the developer can’t even manage the most basic gameplay correct, there’s also a little Breakout clone mini-game in 4PM. I managed to get the ball stuck bouncing between the right and left side of the screen endlessly. They couldn’t even get that right.
4PM is a total disaster. With a horrid story, terrible gameplay, uninteresting characters, and extremely short running time, I can’t suggest this game for everyone. I used to associate 4PM with “the time I go to work”, but I’m glad I have something else horrible to associate it with now.