Review: Summerland - Including a Q&A with developer Connor Rush of Fyre Games.



Publisher: Fyre Games

Developer: Fyre Games

Release: December 02, 2020

Reviewed on: PC Steam

For this month’s article, I not only had the chance to review Summerland - a great free game on Steam - but I also had the opportunity to interview Connor Rush, the one-man team behind Summerland and Fyre games. Below you can read more about Connor, Fyre games, the inspiration for Summerland, as well as my review of the game. Enjoy!

Please introduce yourself and Fyre Games

My name is Conner Rush, I'm 19, and I'm the Founder and pretty much sole member of the independent game studio FYRE Games. I started it when I was about 12 as a pseudonym to create games under. The studio is focused on delivering great narrative games and experiences!

Tell us a bit about Summerland. What is it about, when did you start development, when and where will it be available?

Summerland is a free-to-play, first-person narrative game (or "walking simulator") about the afterlife where you play as a detective named Matthew. Themes heavily revolve around ethical philosophy and moral dilemmas. I started sometime early into my senior year of high school, and I've been working on it for about a year and a half. Summerland is currently available on Steam and itchio for free. The Soundtrack is also available on most major streaming platforms.


How did you get into video game development? Is this your first game or have you created others in the past?

Game development is just something I've always had a big interest in. I remember playing Kingdom Hearts II on my dad's PS2 when I was little and just being so curious how actions translated from controller to screen. I taught myself to code around the age of 10 or 11 for the purpose of making my own games. Summerland is my third game (and by far my best). If you'd like to check out my previous games, they're both free to play. They're entitled Welcome to the Dreamscape and Into the Unknown. They're both fine considering the ages and skill level I had made them at, but I think they're an interesting playthrough just to see the evolution of my games' quality.

What are you most proud about in Summerland? Maybe it’s the story you wrote or perhaps there was a particular environment or mechanic that was difficult to develop?

The story and story-telling are both something I'm really proud of. I'd say most of all though, I'm just really happy that I made a game that's more personal to me. It spawned from a really intense anxiety about dying and not knowing what happens when we die. I channeled that and tried to shrink that down into a more digestible story. It helped me feel better about a lot of things. I think the soundtrack I recorded is also a big plus as well.


What’s next for you/summerland? Do you envision a sequel to this game? What else do you have in development?

I hate to say that I don't have any solid plans. I may jump back into Auric Echoes (my music project) for a bit. In terms of game however, I don't have any plans. I'm going to keep maintaining and improving Summerland to the best of my ability.

Where can we follow you on social media?

I'm most active on my instas, conner_w_rush and fyre_games. My Twitter is @FyreGamesReal. My website is www.fyregames.com

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Review

Summerland really blew my expectations out of the water, and this free first person walking-sim packs some great voice acting and a well developed story that delivers a thought provoking experience on life, death, and morality. You play as Matthew, a detective, who awakens in a bare room with the message “Remain Calm” painted on the wall. Matthew receives a call from the single phone in the center of the room and is told he must relive key memories of his recent past. These 8 memories are trials, scored to determine the type of moral life Matthew lived. What culminates is a brilliantly told story that is relatable and challenges us to reconsider the definition of good and evil.


Controls and Graphics

Summerland’s first person controls support both mouse and keyboard as well as wired controller. Built in Unity, the transitions from trial to trial are beautiful, with new environments accessed with the turn of a door knob. I love the level design and feel that it really adds to the story and deepens the gaming experience.

A cool element to Summerland is that no character has a body model. Rather, characters are displayed as vague figures composed of light. Having rough caracter shapes partnered with a strong team of voice actors engaged my imagination even more, pulling me deeper into the story to build my own depictions of characters while keeping the focus on the story. I thought it was wonderfully executed.

Voice Acting

I found the voice acting to be the pivotal component of the game. The actors Rhys David as Matthew, Natalie Van Sistine as Evalyn, and Ryan Beard as The Judge each had amazing performances and couldn’t have been cast better. In both moments of dialog between characters as well as during internal reflection, the actors were smooth and believable, making for a cast of very relatable characters.


Music

There isn’t much music, mostly subtle background music for narration or at pivotal moments of the story. But when there is music it is a perfect accompaniment to the moment. I always found the music complementary both in moments of joy and sadness. The soundtrack is all original music, composed by Connor as Auric Echoes.

Final Grade: A-

Summerland is absolutely great and a must play free game on Steam. A simple walking sim with a well-written story and top notch voice acting performances packed into about 4-6 hours. For free. I did experience a few moments of frame rate drop and audio ficker, but nothing at all detrimental to the overall experience. Overall I highly recommend you give Summerland a try, and keep an eye on Fyre games for future releases.



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