Quick - the warning alarms are ringing, the bombs are about to fall, and you have only sixty seconds to gather your family and resources and make it to your bomb shelter. This is 60 Seconds, an exhilarating experience in its first minute that quickly becomes technically monotonous in what follows.
That assessment may sound harsh, but in truth there is brilliance in the monotony as 60 Seconds transforms from an exhilarating game of grab and run to a much simpler game that tests your ability to make tough decisions. The main crux of the game never has much going on aesthetically, but the key focus is in the way the game encourages you to think carefully.
The game begins in the house of our family where we play as the father, Ted. Depending on the difficulty you choose you have a small amount of time to identify the locations of key items - food, water, medical aids - as well as your family. Playing on easy, you are given twenty seconds to search the house. Medium offers you ten seconds, and playing on hard begins the search immediately.
During the search time items are placed randomly. You can learn the house layout, but each playthrough places items in different rooms, thereby allowing each run to be exciting. Each game will ultimately be different based on what you are able to grab. This means the pressure is on every time and you are never able to plan to have the essentials, so occasionally you might have plenty of food but barely any water, or lack food but have plenty of medical supplies.
The issue with these sections is they can feel clunky. The house, despite only being small, still takes a while to get around in and the controls often feel unresponsive, making it easy to run into walls and have trouble navigating into rooms. There is a case to be made for the developers wanting to add pressure and not make it easy under the circumstances, but it can be annoying when you are trying to quickly acquire the bare minimum of what you need. Luckily this section is over quickly and is fun even through the frustration and stress.
The meat of 60 Seconds is in the form of the bunker, wherein most of the game's run-time comes in as you can spend around an hour or two in real-world time attempting to keep the family alive. The bunker has all members of the family who made it down sitting in the basement. This is a mostly static image which keeps you updated on the progress of the family, the supplies you have available, or certain threats, such as insects.
It is a nice way of keeping you in the game as you are able to see the family as they fall to illness, dehydration, or even hunger. You can also see all the members in the bunker, so you can keep track of the overall situation in a handy way.
The core of this component, however, takes place in a written format. Each day brings a new note, and these describe a story regarding the family’s latest ordeals and occasionally some of their thoughts or concerns. You are told when members are starting to need food, water, or medicine, and then are granted the opportunity to begin divvying out supplies as required. You can see what you have and decide how you want to handle your supplies. Some people, for example, go insane without food and can run away, and it is easy to run out of supplies as the days drag on.
You also have to make key decisions about the family’s major future, and you often need to decide on members to send out for supplies, noting that there is a chance for them to get sick. By sending those out, you get a few days with one less mouth, but there is also a chance they might never return due to their situation. You need to risk this in order to receive the rewards of what they find, however this aspect does fall victim to much randomness, as when you send people out you have no control over what they return with. You might be desperate for water and medical supplies but have plenty of food, and the returning character may just bring back more food. It often feels like it falls more to luck to get the items you need, which makes each round more tense and annoying than it should be.
There are also risky events that pop up that force you to decide whether or not to take a chance. Answering a knock on the door to your bunker can be hazardous in the early game, but in the later game even more so, as it can also lead to robbery, leaving you with less food or without a radio that might have been your best chance for survival. There are potentially rewards for taking risks, such as letting the family investigate a hole in the wall that could provide food or another much needed item. Sometimes random events can even benefit with the delivery of extra food or water.
If the full game doesn’t appeal to you, there are also standalone versions of the two main components. Scavenge mode is a great practice mode where you get to search the house under the time frame and just get supplies. It is okay on its own but feels pointless without the following survival mode.
Survival mode on its own is actually a lot more interesting. In this, the game gives you random items and you need to survive in the bunker with those items. This section is still monotonous but there is enjoyment in dealing with the hand you are given.
60 Seconds is a mixed bag of a game that will appeal to some, but drive away others. The start of the game is a fast paced flurry of excitement, as you question whether you can grab just one more item. The survival aspect is monotonous, but is engaging through its random events and requirement to figure out how best to manage your available resources.
At the end of the day, 60 Seconds is great for a run every now and then, but isn’t without its flaws. Give it a shot; you might be surprised.