I played through the first chapter of Afterlife without even knowing I’d played it. As an interactive film which branches off in different directions depending on nothing more than what you’re paying attention to, Afterlife often just happens. You don’t play this, you experience it, and while that might not fit the bill for excitement-chasing adrenaline junkies it’s a refreshingly different approach and lends itself nicely to kicking back and just allowing the story to unfold around you.
The story itself is a pretty heart-breaking affair, and if you don’t know the premise before you start the game the opening few moments will give your emotions a good kicking. After the youngest member of a family tragically drowns in the bath, the two parents and older sister struggle to come to terms with accepting life without him. Through arguments, further unfortunate circumstances and some slightly more heart-warming family moments, the story plays out in various ways and accumulates in one of three different endings. Much of the time you select your path through the next few minutes without even knowing about it, the game reacting to what you spent the most time looking at during the previous few moments. It’s a seamless experience, to the point that when the first chapter ended and my choices flashed up in front of me I had no idea that I’d even been making any decisions.
The first time you “play” through this is by far the best, with your decisions in subsequent run throughs guided more by wanting to see alternative storylines as opposed to enjoying the story panning out and finding out what happened next. It’s worth a couple of goes though to see the various endings, and given the whole story only lasts about an hour you won’t need to spend too long inside your headset to see most of what the game has to offer.
The acting itself is passable, and while Afterlife won’t be winning any Oscars for the performances it all ticks over nicely and does enough to make you appreciate the pain a family goes through after such tragedy. I found the 3D elements of the video to be a little odd at times, with the motion feeling a bit strange and artificial, and the 3D effect being far more software based as opposed to actual 3D filming, but that was more in the opening moments. Whether it got better the more I watched, or whether I just got used to it, I’m not sure. It was definitely noticeable at first though.
And besides that, there’s not much to report. It’s a really interesting concept and certainly won’t be the last of its kind, but won’t be anything you show off to give people an idea of what the PSVR is capable of. It’s interesting without being spectacular, and most definitely saved by the low price point which nudges it into the “yeah I’ll see what it’s like” region.
If you want to see something a bit different, then you should give Afterlife a go and see what it’s all about. If you’d rather have more conscious input into your games and don’t enjoy watching more than playing, then stay away.
Reviewed on PSVR