The idea of a ten minute proof of concept demo isn’t exactly appealing, but that’s what makes my short experience with Incandescent Imaging’s title Caffeine so interesting and exciting.
Caffeine is a first person adventure horror game that isn’t too dissimilar to games like Outlast and Creative Assembly’s upcoming title Alien: Isolation. Set on a caffeine mining facility in space, Caffeine allows you to explore the presumably abandoned facility in an attempt to try and find out what exactly happened there. The beauty of this proof of concept demo is that subtly introduces the story without giving a defined scenario. Through traditional exploration and the use of fabled audio logs, the story becomes clearer. Now here is why this short demo works for me in terms of an introductory story prologue; unlike a traditional demo, it leaves the player asking questions and leaves a need to find out more. The whole point of a traditional demo is to draw the player in and get them interested in the plot and gameplay.
Albeit short, Caffeine is devilishly atmospheric. The empty facility has seen better days, with lights flickering and doors creaking and cracking as they open. There is a hint of foul play and possible alien intervention, but it’s never really fleshed out. There were moments of flashing shadows and sounds of external movement, coupled with the audio log which a scientist criticises the explanation of an injured partner and weird things within the facility. You awaken as a young boy, with no idea what has happened here, through notes around the facility, you start to gain a grasp on the story and what might have even happened here.
Without combat, games in this genre need a hook of some sort. The hook within Caffeine is to explore, find secrets and presumably, solve puzzles to get to the next area. Don’t trust me on the last one, I’m assuming based on the use of switches within the game. General gameplay is solid, with movement and jumping feeling strong. The sound design matches the tone of the game perfectly, with an eerie soundtrack – along with you clunking around the base – almost metallically.
As with any proof of concept, there is going to be the odd bug or thing that is out of place, here the sound of walking and running isn’t changed, ruining some immersion. This creates a rather incoherent experience if you are trying to run to the next door down the small and creepy hallways. Also, there is a hint of a future use of a switch, but that isn’t an option in this demo. Although it’s nice to have placeholders in for future content, it was rather frustrating attempting to use switches and complete tasks which aren’t active yet.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how beautiful this title is, the Unreal Engine 3 is being used to its full potential. Lighting and water effects are particularly stand out. Walls reflect flashing lights; rotating lights give you a small false sense of security within this atmospheric world. Single man developer Dylan clearly has the potential to take the ideas presented here and make Caffeine a AAA experience.
Although very short, this proof of concept demo doesn’t give you much to do. It’s intriguing to the point of paranoia when walking around. Not knowing anything about the story or the player themselves, Caffeine is a fantastic premise and offers plenty of potential. Whether it can go ahead and live up to it’s potential remains to be seen, but things look promising. You can play the demo now and beginning on the 31st, you can support the title on IndieGoGo (We’ll update this article with the link when it goes live).