In 35MM, post-apocalyptic Russia plays you. You are one of a pair of friends walking across deserted Russian villages and forests. It’s not entirely clear what befell the world, but it was bad. The people are gone, and so too are most signs of life. More to the point: most signs of life as you commonly understand them are gone. The earth is adaptable and has moved on to new challenges since whatever foul event occurred. It is changing, and you can’t be exactly sure why or how. If you are to survive, you, too, must change.
That’s sort of a mystery. There are definitely questions to be answered in 35MM and challenges involved, but that doesn’t make the game a mystery in the conventional sense. When all signs of life are lost and the world is changing around you, mystery becomes existential angst, a series of questions about your place in the universe that can’t really be resolved by sleuthing alone. In narrative terms, however, it’s still a plain old mystery. 35MM plays with the hybridity of these different forms of suspense.
What role does setting play after the apocalypse? If all that we know is gone, do the nation state’s geographical associations really matter? (In international law, as in space, nobody can hear you scream.) Put otherwise: 35MM takes place in something approximating Russia but Russia is no more, so which is it?
There are plenty of games in the post-apocalyptic somewhere—Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (2015), for instance—and they all have an uncomfortable relationship with place. What’s left of the fictional village of Yaughton, in Shropshire, England, is still very English, and that tension is of narrative value. Some things have not been destroyed, and that is what you must deal with.
Likewise, 35MM isn’t really trying to outrun Russia’s past; clips of deserted apartment buildings in promotional footage look an awful lot like Chernobyl. This is, admittedly, an interpretation informed by hindsight bias, but the whole point of hindsight bias in this case is that we only have so many disasters to work off as precedent. If everything—all ruins porn, all post-apocalyptic gaming—looks something like Chernobyl, a place most will never truly experience in this lifetime, it’s because we have limited practice imagining the apocalypse. In 35MM’s eerily recognizable beauty, then, lies its own form of existential angst: a life that is recognizable but also largely after life as we know it. Good luck with that.
You can purchase 35MM on Steam.