(PS/PC/Sw) **** Age: 18+
“Who’s watching?” The first prompt when you start up a new save in We Are OFK should be a clue. This ain’t no ordinary game.
Amid a recent glut of interactive dramas, OFK makes even less pretence at giving you agency in this vibrantly animated yarn about a bunch of achingly hip millennials trying to make it in the LA music scene. You function largely as an interested observer while the four leads struggle to form a band, navigate the social whirl and fall into relationships.
Think of it less, though, as a too-cool visual novel and more of an interactive press kit for a fictitious synth-pop band – because behind the minor-key dramas of the characters are some thumping tunes that sound very real. Those of you old enough to remember The Monkees – a fake band pulled together to star in a TV show but who became a genuine chart-topping act – will recognise the concept.
OFK has an episodic structure that over five instalments focuses on each band member in turn. The full release is staggered over several weeks, with the first two episodes out now and the remaining three emerging over the coming month. Each chunk builds the story towards the creation of a “single” accompanied by a (slightly) interactive video.
The opening song, Follow/Unfollow, is an absolute banger and has been available on streaming services for a year as the game’s development has neared completion. It’s no spoiler to say the other four can’t reach the same heights but they make up a very agreeable EP that demonstrates this “fake” band is anything but a vanity project.
But back to the game. As befits LA millennials, they aren’t always the most likeable group. Self-obsessed, communicating often in clipped text-speak and unaware of their own privilege, they nonetheless expose their dreams and insecurities to render them far more relatable. The main songwriter fears their tunes don’t cut it. The producer contends with pushy parents. One character wrestles with some darkness in their past.
Much of the player’s interactivity revolves around choosing dialogue responses in text conversations, with the script reasonably witty but the actual choices being fairly illusory. You’re with these people in the scene but you’re not really controlling them.
So long as you accept that constraint, OFK delivers a punchy back story while building to the crescendo of each episode’s song. These tunes – a bit Gorillaz, a bit Lana del Rey – are the real highlights of the endeavour, to be remembered long after the witterings of the supposed creators have faded out.