PC, PS4, Vita
Whatever else it may be, Volume is a loving homage to sneaky bastards. In play it resembles Metal Gear Solid, its story is based on the legend of Robin Hood, and as it trundles long it doffs its cap to everything from Thief to Pac-Man. It's a game that, theoretically, is right up my alley, waiting to kosh me on the bonce and rummage through my pockets. Unfortunately, while I share Volume's love for those foundational stealth games, the best I can say about Volume itself is that I didn't hate it.
The game centres around a bright young computer hacker named Locksley, who lives in an alternate-future Britain ruled by Gisbourne, the head of a powerful arms-manufacturing corporation. Meanwhile, all Britain's wealth is greedily coveted by a small number of Gisbourne's cronies as the rest of the country languishes in poverty. So Locksley comes up with an ingenious redistribution scheme, running accurate heist simulations themed around Gisbourne's most valuable establishments, and broadcasting the results online so people can safely attempt them for real.
It's a classic tale give modern significance, tackling themes of power through wealth versus power through the crowd, how communication and the sharing of ideas can be more volatile than all the weapons money can buy. Volume's world may be fictional, but its politics feel scarily real, which is impressive given you never really see any of the world Locksley's simulations are based on.
As with his last game, Thomas Was Alone, Mike Bithell's talent for storytelling shines through here. The writing is smart without being smug, witty without being too wacky, conveying its ideas without smothering you in them. It's elevated further by some strong voice-acting talent. Andy Serkis' wonderfully sinister turn as Gisbourne is the obvious highlight, while Danny Wallace puts in a fine performance as Danny Wallace.That said , for reasons we'll go into shortly, the story doesn't sit as easily with Volume's structure as it did in Thomas Was Alone.
As for what you do in Volume, the game comprises 100 levels ranging from one to five minutes in duration. Each involves infiltrating simulated version of high-security buildings, evading guard patrols, snatching up diamonds that represent loot, before escaping via a glowing hole in the ground which resembles a trapdoor to the afterlife.
The first dozen or so of Volume's missions are extremely simplistic. You navigate the brightly coloured, textureless levels, avoiding the vision-cones of guards either by simply staying away, hugging walls like a pathologically lonely bricklayer, or distracting them by making noises like whistling or...erm...flushing toilets. Ah, the ol' swirl 'n' switch, a classic con-trick.
Gradually, the game layers more and more systems atop this simple framework, introducing new opponents and obstacles, and new ways of dealing with them. Specialised enemies like dogs and rogues have much larger fields of vision and other heightened senses, while force-fields, security doors and laser-grids slowly compound the complexity of each environment. To overcome these deadly mazes, the game hands you gadgets like the Bugle, which bounces around a level, and makes a distracting noise when triggered, or the Mute, which enables Locksley to run a short distance quickly and silently.