'As Dusk Falls' may be the game that brings back the era of couch multiplayer, and for that, it should be commended.
Playing multiplayer on the couch with friends and family is something gaming has lost track of in the era of consoles going online, and 'As Dusk Falls' brings it back in some style.
'As Dusk Falls' follows the intertwined lives of two families in Arizona, and the choices you make influence the outcome of the story.
The story of 'As Dusk Falls' is as dark and gritty as you'd expect from television shows like 'Ozark' or 'Breaking Bad', and 'As Dusk Falls' makes a genuine stab at trying to match the best dramas television has to offer.
The choose your own adventure genre has seen a major resurgence thanks to the likes of 'The Walking Dead' (indeed, one of the game's writers worked on 'The Walking Dead') and of course, 'The Quarry' is one of our favourite games of 2022.
'As Dusk Falls' is a worthy addition to the genre, and comes tantalisingly close to pulling off it's ambitions of being a game that matches its Hollywood pretensions.
Without wishing to spoil the plot too much, as most of the game is predicated on the twists and turns, the lives of two families are intertwined when they meet in an Arizona motel in the summer of 1998.
The story takes so many detours and twists, with the game being a Coen Brothers caper one minute, an episode of 'Yellowstone' the next and a tender family drama in another scene.
Our personal preference as a critic is to value a game that treats its writing with the utmost reverence, and 'As Dusk Falls' goes to great lengths to make the characters flawed individuals with hopes, dreams, morals and agency.
A truly ingenious and well thought-out multiplayer suite that you can gather up to 7 friends around the Xbox and try influence the story.
For research purposes, we gathered some colleagues from the entertainment.ie office around the communal Xbox and it quickly became a bonding exercise.
In the days after playing the game, we wanted to find out what happened next, had our own theories as to what was going to happen next in the story, and discussed our course of action for the next session.
Unlike 'A Way Out', we actually wanted to see how the story turned out despite earlier misgivings and laughing at the game.
'It Takes Two' was a great exercise in co-op, and 'As Dusk Falls' improves on that formula even further, walking the tight line between gripping TV show and game.
'As Dusk Falls' is an utterly unique experience, and while it isn't a masterpiece of game design like 'Elden Ring', it does something truly novel and original and for that reason alone, the game gets a hearty recommendation from us.
It's been years since a multiplayer experience felt this fresh and urgent, and if 'As Dusk Falls' is going to be remembered for one thing, it's for helping spearhead the era of couch co-op.
It's best to play with an even number of people, because there is great tension to be mined out of 2 players making one decision and 2 players making another.
When the group has a deadlock, the game makes the next choice for you, and there is a certain element of chaos in letting the game play god.
Players also have the chance to override the group decision, which can lead to manic moments where players are overriding each other's decisions.
The game is able to conjure up these little organic moments of tension on the fly, and it is a true feat in programming that the game is so reactive.
We're willing to recommend 'As Dusk Falls' with the caveat that it needs to be played with friends or in a group setting, because there are very few gaming experiences like it.
Where the game falls down, however, is the self-serious cliché-ridden story.
'As Dusk Falls' set out to compete with the best television has to offer, but it can't quite make that final leap forward to compete with HBO dramas.
Character motivations often take a turn for the comedic or irrational, and the game loses steam when it breaks up the exciting action with flashbacks.
The game opts for a graphic novel visual style, with very few pre-rendered assets.
The visual style is pretty striking, and not necessarily for the better.
Characters move from pose to pose or across the room like the early seasons of 'South Park', and while these graphical limitations may be borne out of necessity, it detracts from the experience.
The art style is distinctive, but it looks very janky in motion, with characters moving between actions like an artsy music video.
It is an artistic risk, and we're normally all for that, but in the case of 'As Dusk Falls' it takes away from the experience.
'As Dusk Falls' really tries to drive home its dramatic narrative themes, and the characters moving around like a flash animation on Newgrounds does the game no favours.
The art style may be enough to make or break the entire experience for you, and some of the plot developments are so outlandish it might reduce your playing experience to an episode of 'Mystery Science Theatre 3000', but at the very least, the game is memorable.
We would rather take a game that tries to do something different like 'As Dusk Falls' over 100 generic first-person shooters.
Games like 'As Dusk Falls' attempt to push gaming forward as an artform, and if the gaming industry was more willing to experiment on games like 'As Dusk Falls' as opposed to loot box in games, the industry would be in much better shape.
We'd rather a game fall short because it tried to reinvent the wheel than playing it safe.
Between this and last year's '12 Minutes', gamings experimentation to compete with the best TV and film has to offer has bared good fruit so far, and the developer that manages to be the missing link between gaming and Hollywood will go down in history.
'As Dusk Falls' nearly pulls it off, and while the game most likely won't be in our year-end 10, it's games like these that make gaming richer for their existence, and is well worth picking up.