For fans of the oddball 90s game aesthetic – misproportioned bodies, warped perspectives, and bold colours – visiting Heffernan’s gameworlds is like spending time with an eccentric old friend. But in addition to some really great banter, Vol. 1 primarily unfolds through revealing conversations that touch on social issues like gentrification, corporate hegemonies, collective bargaining, and the complicated business of making a living; all of these topics are painfully applicable to current events, which makes Vol. 1 both visually anachronistic and thematically accurate. It’s meta-exploration through chat and movement – a thoughtful voyage through a community going through a slowly snowballing crisis. If you’re looking for confrontation and convention, this probably isn’t the game for you.
Volume One of Tales From Off-Peak City is an escalating procession of existential crises staged through instances of gentrification, corporatism, and pizza delivery. It’s a kitschy nightmare laundered through eccentric characters and their bizarre conditions and the product is a surreal but eloquent presentation on preventable social decay. A single city block and a couple of hours is all Tales From Off-Peak City needs to tell a grotesque, distinctive story.
I’m a big advocate for saying that longer games are not necessarily better games. This game is exceptionally short, at about an hour for a playthrough, but it spends that hour well. You’re given enough time to get to know the cast, explore the city, and leave once the city’s secrets have been laid bare and the remaining answers lie beyond in a later volume.
Tales From Off-Peak City is full of memorable characters and interesting dialogues and uses your sense of curiosity to persuade you to continue through the story, and then leaves you with no answers; and it's yet to be seen how the story will be continued in the next chapters of the game.
Off-Peak deserved to be something less arbitrary than a point and click. Or it deserved a player with better taste than me. But given how much I’ve had to say in praise of both this and Frog Detective 2, the only two point and click games I’ve played in the last couple of years, I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps I just don’t dislike as many things as I thought I did. It’s always good to shed your prejudices, and Tales From Off-Peak City helped me unload a good few.