The Blackout Club
A co-op horror game from some immersive sim favorites
you’ve got to document what’s going on in this suburban town
In The Blackout Club, teenagers have been waking up in different parts of their hometown covered in dirt, or with blood under their fingernails and no memory whatsoever of what led them there. Something nasty lurks beneath the surface of this place, and the adults don’t want to know, so it’s up to the teens to get to the bottom of it. They’ll band together and uncover a vast network of tunnels under their town, and a sinister conspiracy involving the adults they interact with every day—but they don’t even know they’re a part of it.
In this co-op horror game for up to four players, you’ve got to document what’s going on in this suburban town, but objectives are procedurally generated, thrusting your characters into new and tricky situations every night. It’s partly a stealth game, but it’ll also encourage you to create diversions and combine different abilities to survive. You have to film evidence of this conspiracy, and get it out of town.
Caught on camera
You embark on what’s described as ‘surveillance missions’. I ask Question developer Jordan Thomas how the game is structured, and how a typical mission might play out. The team’s still figuring out the specifics, but the bones of it are in place. “You see the kids standing around inside their little hideout, and you have a map of the town. All you get to choose is where you spawn in—what part of town. And as your character levels up, you gain access to new start points, more difficult challenges and narrative assets that are closer and closer to the heart of the conspiracy. It’s not really a thing that ends. It’s more Lovecraftian, where you’re struggling endlessly against the unknown, but it gets juicier, I guess, as you go further into the neighborhood and deeper into the underground maze.”
Thomas then describes what a typical objective will look like. “The Blackout Club contacts you using a series of emojis that is essentially a code to prevent detection by the adults in town, and you can translate those into text. It says something like ‘capture footage of a lucid dragging someone towards the red door’, so a particular enemy type and a particular mechanic. One of the players has to allow themselves to be grabbed, so the other player can get that footage on film.”
If you manage to capture footage of a lucid—one of the game’s enemy types— dragging a friend towards a red door, though, the mission doesn’t end there. “That’s just the first objective,” Thomas explains. “After completing that, another one is sent to you, and the hope is it feels a little bit like a flash mob, where they’re constantly trying to stay ahead of the enemy, and you’re only told what you need to know at the time. Those are deeply randomized. They could take you across town, they could take you deep into the maze, and the challenges along the way differ each time.” You’re capturing what Thomas calls the “grotesque behavior” of the enemies on camera, and the more complicated the behavior is, the more experience points you’ll get for recording it.
There’s also a ‘boogeyman’ of sorts to contend with, a larger enemy that can only be seen when one player ‘blacks out’ to reveal its location. The idea is to create horror moments that are usually scripted, only with systems and player behavior. Question is making TheBlackoutClub for co-op partly because horror is a social activity—watching scary films or playing scary games with others usually enhances the experience. I can’t wait to give it a go with my cowardly PC Gamer teammates.
Teaming up is the best way to survive.