The Complex is a literal interactive movie from Wales Interactive, publisher of similar experiences like Late Shift and The Bunker. It’s a British production with a near-future science fiction flavor from director Paul Raschid and written by Lynn Renee Maxcy (The Handmaid’s Tale). It stars Michelle Mylett (Letterkenny, Bad Blood), Al Weaver (Grantchester), and Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones, The Witch). Basically, The Complex is just a plain odd thing to see on a platform like Nintendo Switch, which doesn’t even have Netflix. But that works in its favor. The Complex is far from perfect, but if you approach it with a movie-going mindset, it’s a fun way to spend a couple hours (probably not much longer than that).
It’s not overly complex
The interactive movie takes place largely in London at the Kensington Corporation, a high-tech facility studying nanocell technology that can automatically repair damage to the human body. Dr. Amy Tenant (Mylett) is the lead researcher at the facility and the protagonist of the narrative. Her boss is Nathalie Kensington (Dickie), and the corporation enjoys close relations with the fictional nation of Kindar, which recently overcame a civil war but is still controlled by a dictator. (Think Vietnam meets North Korea, except they conveniently speak English.)
When a Kindarian intern steals nanocells from the Kensington Corporation by injecting them into herself, she is swiftly detained and returned to the corporation, but not before sparking a national biohazard crisis with the dangerous experimental cells in her bloodstream. The movie then is about Tenant and ex-coworker/ex-boyfriend Dr. Rees Wakefield (Weaver) entering into a vacuum-sealed, high-security complex at the bottom of the Kensington Corporation where they are to extract the nanocells from the intern. However, the situation quickly becomes even more dangerous than they bargained for, and Tenant and Wakefield have to start thinking about an exit strategy as well.
So in effect, The Complex is a mystery survival thriller with a bit of sci-fi thrown in. And I’m pleased to say that the main cast members all excel in their roles, with Tenant and Wakefield having great love/hate chemistry. The writing is overall natural and entertaining as well. Kindarian intern Clare Lee (Kim Adis) in particular gets a few chuckle-worthy lines, a nice contrast to the fact that she’s writhing in pain from nanocells. The CG is visibly low-budget where gunshots are involved, and there are some odd fluctuations in audio quality sometimes. But those things don’t hamper the experience in a palpable way.
The illusion of choice
The Complex has you making decisions for Tenant specifically. You will make choices early and often for her that affect the flow of the narrative, (You can optionally pause the game to take your time deciding too.) but the truth is most of those choices don’t have dramatic consequences. You make lots of what I would describe as “micro decisions” with micro consequences, and on rare occasion they do add up to something surprising. But more often, they add up to nothing. Most major plot events will come to pass regardless of your actions. In fact, there are a couple seemingly critical decisions in The Complex that end up playing out the same no matter what you select, and it cheapens the experience as a result.
This disappointment continues on to the endings of The Complex, of which there are nine but I only found eight, including a surprisingly deadly hidden one. There are two major ending paths, and endings only deviate in minor ways within those two paths. In general, the endings aren’t that satisfying and don’t go far enough in explaining characters’ motivations. Some endings even mildly contradict the actions of Tenant up to that point. Basically, the end of the game is where things fall apart. But at the least, the game lets you fast-forward through all scenes you’ve seen before.
Still good popcorn entertainment
Your first playthrough of The Complex is likely to be enrapturing because it takes repeated playthroughs to understand how restrictive the narrative actually is. The first time around, it is genuinely fun and exciting to see what the characters go through — up until whatever dissatisfying ending you receive. And considering the game costs the same price as a weeknight movie theater ticket in the first place, with the added benefit of some novel interactivity, I can’t help but still enjoy and appreciate The Complex. If you’re looking for a very unique movie night, you could do far worse than this Wales Interactive experience.
A review code was provided by the publisher.