The Gallery is an interactive FMV developed and published by Aviary Studios, though the writer-director of the film is Paul Raschid who have given us everyone’s favorite FMVs such as ‘The Complex’ & ‘Five Dates’. Both of those games are completely different: one’s about online dating, and another is about a bioweapon attack on London. In terms of scale, The Gallery sits somewhere in the middle: it’s about an art curator being held hostage in their own gallery.
Well, to be clear, it’s actually about two art curators being held hostage in their own gallery. You see, The Gallery has a unique hook which sets it apart from others: this is two narratives in one, told 40 years apart. The first takes place in 1981, with the second – a parallel narrative – taking place in 2021. While both stories take place solely within the titular gallery just outside of London, they paint a larger picture of a time of civil unrest in England. Each half of The Gallery will take around an hour to complete, so this isn’t a long game – it’s more comparable to a feature film. And its price is in line with that: $14.99, what you’d expect to pay for a new film release. Except the value here is much higher, considering there’s a branching narrative depending on what choices you made, and multiple endings to unlock.
The 1981 narrative has 12 endings, in fact, with the 2021 narrative having six. That’s a lot of potential playthroughs. Whether you’ll actually want to play through that many times to unlock all endings is another story – naturally, it means a lot of repetition – but it’s nice to have the option. And the frequent dialogue options give the impression that there are rather large divergences in the narrative depending on the choices you make. In some cases, who lives and who dies. Playing through to try and save certain characters is at least a noble quest.
The stories that The Gallery presents are interesting, but perhaps not as edge-of-your-seat as a story about a hostage situation should be. It’s a little slow at times, and its fixation on art likely won’t resonate with all players. It is at least very well acted and produced, with a cast littered with familiar faces. But still, we found we couldn’t truly care for any of the characters. Both narratives squeeze in secondary characters who get very limited screen time, and it’s hard to understand how – or why – they have any real relevance to the narrative.
Despite its flaws, there’s no denying that The Gallery is well made, and Paul Raschid continues to cement his position as a leader in the FMV space. We perhaps didn’t enjoy this as much as his other projects due to its sometimes-slow pacing, and its focus on art won’t be to everyone’s tastes. But in terms of production values, it’s hard to criticize and it leaves us intrigued to see what Raschid is working on next.