With a title like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, you might automatically think that a group of Christian game developers dreamt up a spiritually based video game about the end times. But that biblical concept apparently got left behind in this intriguing downloadable game. What is it about, then? Well, discerning that takes time, patience and a lot of exploring.
When the action (such as it is) opens, you’re alone in a place called Yaughton Valley. It’s a sprawling bit of lushly detailed English countryside with tree-canopied lanes, a nearby hamlet full of shops, farms, houses and churches, and beautiful rolling fields of grain and grass. But there are absolutely no people, living or dead, anywhere. And there’s no immediate sense of where they may have gone.
In fact, there’s no clear indication that you’re even a person yourself. You move like a human being, and can open doors and cabinets, but you never see your own hands or feet. You’re simply an invisible observer left to walk about, listen to the wind whistle in the tree boughs and ponder what happened in this empty, silent place.
Was it some strange spiritual happening? Was there some kind of human-caused tragedy that unfolded in the perfectly preserved town? Or could it have been something as outlandish as, say, an alien invasion? One thing’s for sure: With every house door left thrown wide, every half-eaten picnic lunch abandoned on the hillside, and every bike dropped in a jumble in the middle of the road, you know there’s a wild story to be unspooled here. An apocalyptic mystery to cobble together.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, it’s all very modest. There’s no running and gunning, dying and re-spawning, or even any complicated puzzle piecing in this world. You simply walk in any direction through the valley’s five mapped areas to gather bits and pieces of, well, life memories from every nook and cranny you can think to explore.
You discover that there’s more than the wind to hear, as well. Short audio diaries can be played on scattered tape recorders and uncradled telephones. You also encounter floating lights that can be unlocked with a gyroscopic twist of your game controller to reveal short ghostly snippets of dialogue between some of the town’s former residents.
Add all those nonlinear breadcrumbs of thought and conversation together with the physical clues, and you soon begin to stitch together a tapestry revealing a particularly surprising event. But, more importantly, you start to see a town full of people—each wrestling with questions of love, betrayal, dedication, fear, dishonesty, prejudice and self-doubt. On the plus side of things, their conversations contain moments of reconciliation, statements of love in the midst of danger, and even a priest’s declaration that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
For all of this game’s evocative tone, rich visuals and dense discovery, though, there are a few things here to be wary of. Some gamers may get it in their heads that this title is trying to explain away the biblical idea of the rapture. Also, a number of those human-shaped, flowing auras produce images of or speak of deadly violence—though we never see any murderous blow connect, or car crash, or dropped bomb explode. There are mysterious spatters of blood to be found which also hint at a past horror.
Some of the worst content shows up in the more angry and fearful conversations we hear. Sexual infidelity is referenced. And nasty language covers the gamut from f- and s-words to misuses of Jesus’ name.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.