Under the post-war prosperity and wonderfully optimistic aesthetics of 1950s America there existed a darker societal reality of racial and gendered oppression. After tasting a little freedom in the Second World War, women were, in its aftermath, relegated to the position of housewives and given few social freedoms, kept under the heel of an increasingly toxic masculinity.
This is the 1950s America Sketchy Panda Games are looking at in their proposed game Aberford, now live on Kickstarter. When a strange virus strikes the 1950s suburb, turning all of the male residents into zombies, you must step into the shoes of four kick-ass suburban housewives who will use any weapon they can find, from hoovers to rolling pins, to fight off these zombies.
The four playable characters in the game are Betty, a young nurse who has had to fight racial prejudice to gain and maintain a place in Aberford society; Peggy, a former professional baseball player, now a housewife; Doris, a former factory worker, now a waitress; and Sylvia, who had to leave her career as a scientist when the war ended. Each of them will have their own story arc, and their own fighting bonuses, for example Peggy has a talent for thrown attacks, but no one is as fast and light as Betty.
Using the sci-fi lens of zombies, the game is able to caricature and comment upon both the real and threatened violence that women faced in society at large and in their own homes, letting them step up to the plate and fight it head on with the strength we all know they had. The developers state that these women are far from damsels in distress: “they grew up during the great depression and helped carry their country through World War Two; these are tough resourceful women.” We’re being promised fully developed female characters with interesting commentary on the 50s social reality through what I’d say is pretty excellent application of cognitive estrangement.
There’ll be two modes of gameplay: Challenges and Campaign. Challenges mode is the opportunity for you and your friends to team up and fight hordes of zombies using combo attacks, counters and teamwork. Campaign mixes this combat into a larger story where you’re able to have conversations, manage the group dynamic and decide what actions the women will take to uncover Aberford’s viral mystery. Sketchy Panda claim that in Campaign mode the game switches between the in depth story-telling of a graphic adventure game like The Walking Dead and exciting brawler combat like Assassin’s Creed when zombies come on screen, to test your “reflexes and your brainpower.” Combat is intelligent, based on timing, speed, and effective countering.
The main story will be released in five chapters so that backers can get their hands on the game sooner. Development will apparently take around two years, but backers will also get beta access. Aberford is being created for PC with the intention to port it out to Playstation, XBox, Wii, Mac, and Linux.
From what’s shown in the Kickstarter images, the game looks wonderfully stylised, seemingly influenced by pop art and Telltale games’trademark cell shading, and the characters appear as diverse and bad ass as you could hope.
Sketchy Panda are looking for $675, 000 dollars to create the game, which is currently in Alpha mode. At time of writing they’ve raised $61, 635 with 23 days of their campaign left to go. If you’re interested in backing the game, you can visit the Kickstarter page where you can donate from $10 for a badge and wallpaper to $10,000 to fly out and meet the team, contribute to voice acting or motion capture with full credit for your work as well as food and lodgings.
If you’d love the chance to fight social norms and the undead surrounded by that undeniably attractive 50s aesthetic go ahead and check the game out!
Main Image via Kickstarter © Sketchy Panda