Family

PC, free

Goodness me, this is a clever thing. Family is a game about piecing together the members of an imagined intertwining ’80s London music scene, based on reading through fictional article extracts, rider notes, and most impressively of all, listening to the music of each of the bands.

You begin with a mostly empty family tree, that labels the nine bands, but leaves the names of their members blank. Your role is to correctly assign from the list of 19 possible names, following their careers through the groups and the years 1985-1995.

Each time you correctly label five band members, the game will notify you of this, and then put two more cuttings into your collection that offer further clues. These might be autobiography extracts, clippings from interviews with a band member, or internal music industry memos. And on top of that, developer Owl Skip has recorded a lengthy radio broadcast in which a presenter is looking back at the era, playing the bands’ best known tunes, and interviewing former member of a few of the groups, Ella Neil about her memories of the time.

That it’s all entirely imagined is quite the thing. Nine different bands, across various genres, demonstrating evolving musical styles as the years progress. There’s nice voice acting from Hattie Snooks, Daniel Duke and Mark West. And most extraordinarily, each band was written and performed by the one-man development team, including all instruments! Oh, and he’s the radio DJ.

And while the written clues are sometimes a little on the nose, more often than not you’re noticing that Alex Adam mentions a “Johnny” going off in a huff in a Melody Maker interview, after he criticised his guitar playing, which leads you to John Rodd, and you assign him to guitarist of Ra-Ra Buffala. You learn about the break-up of that band, and indeed the reputation of Adam, and work out which bands they each move on to, and with whom they later team up. It’s a detective game!

Nine songs, a lengthy radio broadcast, a bunch of written extracts, and the satisfaction of correctly assigning the next five band members, all adds up to a really satisfying hour or so. It’s quite mad that this is free, without even the option to throw money at Owl Skip in return.

I’ve come away feeling as though I know a bunch about a music scene I never knew, and have to remind myself that none of it is actually applicable information for the real world. Which I think shows it’s a job well done.

Owl Skip is a member of Buried Treasure’s Discord community, as if this matters to you somehow.

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7 Comments

  1. Having just completed Return of the Obra Dinn, I could see this scratching that same itch.

    What genre would that be? Dinn-like? Identify-em-up? A third genre name joke?

    1. So I can answer that with my own proposed term, ahem…

      Taxonomic Detective Game:

      A game of deductive reasoning that uses a taxonomy as its formal method of validation. This could be a book (Obra Dinn) or any other form of organisational chart.

      This taxonomy separates it from games such as Her Story, which as deductive reasoning, but no form of formal validation, as well as detective role-playing games that involve no significant reasoning, such as Sherlock Holmes, or detective modes in games like Batman and The Witcher.

      Whatdya think?

  2. This was ace – worth noting there’s a downloadable PC version which has a slightly extended intro/outro and that lets you throw a few quid to the developers if you want.

  3. Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees, the game! I didn’t know I needed this until I saw that it existed!

    (I’m currently just starting a band family tree project for a local scene and wish there were some sort of PeteFrameworks I could just dump the data into and it would generate the tree for me)

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