You’d be forgiven for not playing The Drifter at PAX Australia this year; Powerhoof had several great games on show throughout the weekend, and this little gem (that’s still pretty early in development) was sitting on a Switch. I only heard about it through word of mouth, or I would have missed it entirely.
I’m so glad I got to play it though, as it quickly became one of the best things I played all weekend.
Described as a “Pulp Adventure Thriller”, The Drifter starts off ominously enough as your character, Mick, wakes up on a train on the way to an important family event. It isn’t long before he witnesses a murder, is pursued by mysterious armed men, and killed. This is only where the story truly begins.
What captured me quickly was the quality of the audio, with a dark-synth score that is reminiscent of 70s and 80s thrillers of the past, along with very strong and memorable voice acting. Mick in particular – voiced by Adrian “YeOldShimpEyes” Vaughan – has this perfect deep gruff voice as he monologues about his surroundings and increasingly twisted situation, and I loved how clearly and quintessentially Australian everybody in the cast feels. But not in that cringe “Aussie accent” way – just really high quality stuff.
Then, the visual style jumps out as well. Very detailed in a dark and broody kind of way, it allows for certain items and points of interest to really stand out in the environment – handy, given The Drifter is, at its heart, a point-and-click adventure game. Solving puzzles like figuring out how to get an old car started while having conversations with others, seeing how they interact with certain items, is an old school style that really resonated with me.
It uses what developer Dave calls “LOOK-360 technology”, which is an irreverent way of saying that you need to look at your surroundings in the 3D plane and choose which to interact with and with which item to progress the story. It’s a little finicky to get used to but I quickly found myself comfortable with it as I investigated the area.
My time with The Drifter ended with a twist, and left me wanting more. A lot more. “A mad web of shadowy corporations, murder, and the thousand year old obsession of a madman” sounds like just my cup of tea, and with these strong production values and local talent, it’s one that has me really excited for this Melbourne studio.
The game is still a year or two away from release at this stage, but I can’t wait to see more of what’s in store for this dark story. To find out more about The Drifter an keep an eye on its progress, check it out here.