Release Date: November 16, 2023
It is easy to boil American Arcadia down into ‘The Truman Show turned into a game,’ but doing so is unfair. American Arcadia does share a similar conceit, following an everyman as they begin to realise that their life was a lie, but it adds a modern twist to the story and does so with a lot of heart and passion. Everything about how the game is presented to you, from the story and voice acting to the visual presentation and gameplay mechanics, is simply delightful.
However, like the Truman Show, American Arcadia starts on any old day in Trevor Hill’s life. Trevor is a resident of Arcadia, a metropolis paradise that is stuck in the 70s. Unbeknownst to him and everyone in Arcadia, they are also the stars of a long-running Reality TV experience that live streams their entire lives. Outside of Arcadia, their lives and their individual popularity is the most important thing. Due to Trevor’s mundane nature, he has yet to amass a following, which sees his life come into the sights of the bigwigs running the show looking to cut costs. Thankfully, he seems to have a guardian angel, which is where the other playable character, Angela, comes in. Unlike Truman, Trevor is largely prompted into his journey of self-discovery, as he comes to realise much of the life that he has lived has been a lie.
The narrative throughout American Arcadia and everything around it was top-notch. American Arcadia explores our relationship with purpose in life, social media and content and how all of these are interlocking to drive us away from simplicity. This narrative is brought to life by the acting of Yuri Lowenthal, Krizia Bajos, and Cissy Jones, who make the dialogue sound natural and believable. They convey the appropriate emotion in the tenser scenes but also bring a lot of lightheartedness into the story. The narrative is also structured well, knowing when to focus on the story and when to bring in some puzzles to slow it down.
American Arcadia’s puzzles largely came in two varieties depending on which character you were playing at the time. Trevor was all about puzzle platforming, as you controlled him in a 2.5D space and included a lot of running, climbing, or moving boxes into the right space to climb to higher space. Being on the run for much of the game, Trevor often has to do his puzzle platforming whilst being chased down by Interceptors, which genuinely made for some very thrilling moments in the game. There were also some stealth sections interspersed throughout the game, where you might be able to gain greater environmental control through Angela hacking the CCTV cameras and operating machinery in the environment. Angela also offers a different, first-person perspective and with this comes some longer-form puzzles that require putting things together through environmental clues. The puzzling gameplay was always excellent and really engaging, even if I was never particularly challenged by the puzzles. Some might consider this a drawback, but with the narrative at play and its focus within the game, they are well-balanced to endure your continual progression throughout Arcadia.