All Walls Must Fall is always running out of time

The nuke is always less than 10 hours away. The debut release from ex-Yager studio inbetweengames, All Walls Must Fall transforms the concept behind the Doomsday Clock into a grid-based tactical action experience with procedurally generated missions and a focus on time travel - a techno medley of Syndicate, XCOM and Crypt of the Necrodancer. It unfolds in 2089, following an alternate 1980s in which Germany's Peaceful Revolution never occurred and the East and West remain violently polarised. Somebody, somewhere in Berlin is about to set off an atomic bomb, and your task, as one of several cyborg agents, is to comb nightclubs for clues about the culprit while undertaking various missions, using a combination of persuasion, hacking, brutality and good old-fashioned temporal manipulation to work your way into the city's criminal underground.

One of the game's early masterstrokes is to invest that countdown to apocalypse with the urgency of a pulsing bassline. Every move your agent makes - kicking a door down, wooing a guard in conversation, firing a pistol - is synched to the level's background track, part of a steady onward beat towards the triggering of the bomb. If the apocalypse is always imminent, however, it never quite arrives: die or fail and your mysterious radio contact will simply reset the clock. The idea of starting a campaign over isn't, of course, all that exotic in itself, but it's characterised here by a grinding despair. I'm still working out how far this aspect of the writing goes, but your agent appears to retain some memory of previous attempts each time you restart. You might recognise a bouncer at an entrance, a bouncer you've sweet-talked, evaded and/or slaughtered a dozen times over. You might beg the man to attack you rather than lulling his suspicions, weary of the whole charade.

The horror of All Walls Must Fall isn't, in other words, that of seeing the world end, but of striving perpetually to avert it - of living forever in the shadow of the bomb. One inspiration is Francis Fukuyama's essay "The End of History?", written the year the Berlin Wall fell, which is quoted during the intro - in brief, he argues that Western liberal democracy represents the final form of human civilisation, inaugurating a strange afterlife in which time has effectively ceased, because the concept of history as an on-going story no longer has meaning. It's a sentiment captured by All Walls Must Fall's oppressive aesthetic, busy with milling bodies yet strangely, profoundly dead. The palette is electric, gloomy, exhausting - flaring orange projectiles, starkly lit brutalist lobby sculptures, a HUD painted vector-monitor green. Clubbers shiver ethereally in the light cast by a DJ's display, coalescing and flowing into the shadows like shoals of deep sea fish.

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