Ah yes, I remember playing this on the red button on Christmas Day 2005, and possibly once or twice on the website thereafter. It’s stuck with me incredibly well, as I distinctly remembered the bit where you have to cut between the two views of the family living room, and spot the imposter. Ditto for the bits where you have to pick which area of the screen he’s hiding in.
It’s pretty bloody good – entertaining, well-written and making good use of the very limited options provided by the technology to craft a game that’s as varied as possible. The production values are higher than you’d expect too; nothing too stunning, but well-directed and not scrimping on the locations and costumes. My first ever TV job was as a runner on an interactive drama for the BBC website at around the same time, and it strikes me that we’ve gone backwards since then in terms of the resources allocated to online-only ventures.
But anyway, I played through the whole game today on Youtube, as the version on the BBC website doesn’t seem to be working any more, at least not for me – as soon as I made my first decision, the video disappeared and the next one didn’t load. When I got to the end, my memory from over a decade ago faltered just as I was faced with a crucial dilemma.
The game told me I could press one button to release the prisoners and teleport them back home, or press another button to freeze everyone apart from me in time. The first one seemed so obvious as to be some sort of trap, and I figured that if I hit freeze then it would buy me the time to sort everything out properly without the Graske’s interference.
This, apparently, was the wrong decision. I got the bad ending, where the little girl’s parents remain trapped forever and she’s in the grasp of alien imposters. I ruined Christmas. I was therefore grateful for the ability to navigate back to the previous Youtube video, and choose the option that is basically labelled “choose this option, only an idiot would pick the other one”.
And my reward? A cosy family scene in which Another Rock n’ Roll Christmas by Gary Glitter is playing. Glitter’s first conviction as a child sex offender occurred six years earlier, so it was an odd choice for a game aimed squarely at the under-twelves.
Favourite line: “There’s a risk that if you switch to ITV tonight, the universe may implode.”