As my wife and I played through As Dusk Falls, a tense new interactive thriller that recently launched on Xbox Game Pass, we would regularly turn to each other on the couch and say, “Coin flip.”
In As Dusk Falls, up to eight people playing together in local co-op can simultaneously vote on what the game’s characters should do next. Think Black Mirror: Bandersnatch mixed with Jackbox’s many-player multiplayer brand of trivia. Similar to Jackbox games, you don’t even need a controller — you can just use your phone (though you’ll have to download a companion app).
Much of As Dusk Falls’ story revolves around a hostage situation at a motel, and as you might expect, decisions can be pretty tough. In one instance, we had to pick between pointing a gun at someone as a threat or dropping it on the ground. Generally, the option with the most votes is the one the character will actually do, though some major decisions require a full consensus. If there’s a tie, the game will randomly select between the options.
Throughout our playthrough, we regularly relied on this “coin flip” to add some unpredictability. Will a character act calmly or lash out under pressure? I almost always picked the safe route, but sometimes my wife would make a more chaotic decision just to see what would happen. In other cases, some choices would be equally good — or bad — so we’d mutually decide to split the vote and let the character “decide.” These coin flips would stress me out, but they also helped the characters feel more like actual people making their own choices.
While it was a refreshing way to play a narrative-driven game, it’s not an entirely new idea. Supermassive’s 2017 thriller Hidden Agenda similarly turned a gritty drama into a party game. But I’m hopeful more games adopt a similar approach. In the case of As Dusk Falls, playing with my wife made what would have felt like a just-OK B-movie thriller plot into a much more memorable experience. There are a lot of branching paths, too, so we have a good excuse to return to the game.
And while my wife and I beat As Dusk Falls in about seven hours over the course of a few evenings, we still have a lot of great couch co-op games on Xbox Game Pass we can turn to next. Earlier this year, for example, we had a blast with the first few hours of Nobody Saves the World, a dungeon crawler where you play as all sorts of creatures and characters and mix and match their powers. It actually didn’t launch with local co-op; instead, we faked it with her on the TV and me on Xbox Cloud Gaming on my laptop. Ever since the feature was officially added in April, we’ve been meaning to go back.
Our Xbox Game Pass co-op backlog is stacked with other potential things to play. My colleague Andrew Webster has already written about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and how it captures the essence of the classic arcade games. I downloaded the puzzle game Escape Academy after reading Ash Parrish’s review — my wife and I have never done a physical escape room, but I think we’ll have a lot of fun with the game’s virtual ones. I’m excited for Halo Infinite’s split-screen multiplayer to come out (eventually) so that we can explore Zeta Halo together.
At the rate Microsoft adds games to Xbox Game Pass, that co-op backlog will almost certainly continue to grow. But someday, I’d like to come back to As Dusk Falls with a bigger group: I wonder how the story might play out with eight people making the decision to coin flip together.