You’re in a white hallway. A door with ‘102’ printed on it stands in the distance. You step towards it and walk through the lingering, floating words of Nick and his girlfriend Madison’s argument. It’s another disagreement, one of the many that led to their separation.
In apartment: a separate place, you peer into the lives of five neighbors all living in the same apartment complex. They live apart but experience similar themes of loneliness and lost love. The main protagonist is Nick, who is newly single after his girlfriend of four years leaves him. He wanders around his apartment, sifting through memories and reminiscing about their relationship. The game began as a student project at USC and involved mostly USC alumni: Robyn Tong Gray, the game’s director and lead story designer; Richard Emms, the game lead and gameplay designer; Raghav Bashyal, a developer and the vignette designer for the character May; and Steve Cha who did additional writing and editing.
The central mechanics of the game involve the player wandering around Nick’s apartment, finding items that each tell a story. Every time a key item is found, the player uncovers a new drawing from a moment in Nick’s former relationship. After gathering three or four drawings, the player then watches an animated storyboard that recounts a moment in Nick and Madison’s time together. These stories unfold after the player returns to Nick’s drafting table, lit by his desk lamp. While some of the sections require the player to complete certain tasks and solve puzzles, ultimately each section is driven by a compelling story.
In between piecing these storyboards together, the player ventures into the neighboring apartments. As we continued to play, we couldn’t wait to hear the click of the desk lamp turning on–we wanted to know more about each of the neighbors’ stories: a daughter who longs for her father after her parents’ divorce, an elderly widow who struggles to accept her husband’s death, an aloof young man who feels like he’s lost himself in his new life away from home, and a novelist who questions her relationship with her wife after entering an affair.
Each of the characters’ stories are fully-immersive experiences, thanks to the breathtaking 3D environments. Players wander through magical forests filled with fireflies, trudge through snowy landscapes, and glide through crystal clear waters on a boat. The music and sound effects are astonishing, too. We enjoyed listening to the falling rain, the crunching of the snow underneath the player’s boots, and the typing of the novelist’s keyboard. All of these elements led to numerous nominations and awards at IndieCade, Independent Games Festival (IGF), and mostly recently at AdventureX.
We highly recommend apartment to anyone who is a fan of great storytelling or wants to feel sappy on Valentine’s Day! Support the team by downloading apartment on Steam/itch.io or donating on Kickstarter.