‘Majestic Nights: Chapter Zero – Sunset After Dark’ (2014) review: The ’80s are a dangerous place

First chapter of ‘Majestic Nights’ questions Apollo moon landing

With a bangin’ synth board cranking out some killer beats (and more than just a touch of paranoia in the air), the first chapter of “Majestic Nights” will transport you to the 1980s faster than you say “The moon landing was was a government conspiracy.”

Which, according to Epiphany Games’ quirky indie title, is the truth. Welcome to the world of “Sunset After Dark,” a sort of preview/beta chapter/intro to the episodic RPG/shooter adventure of “Majestic Nights.” Labeled as Chapter Zero, “Sunset” serves as an entry point into the broader concept of government conspiracies gone amok.

It’s Los Angeles, circa 1981. It’s our job as Cardholder, an intelligence operative whose history with the nation’s conspiracy events is a bit muddled, to investigate a missing film director who says he has proof that the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 was a lie concocted by the federal government. (In later chapters, we get to control Cal, a female P.I. whose past is covered in secrecy.)

As is apropos for a title soaked in theories and paranoia, it takes about 15 seconds before Cardholder starts hitting roadblocks in his quest to uncover the “truth,” including baddies with much better weaponry than us, AI who will only help us if we help them first and the occasional glitch. (It was a preview build, so that was to be expected.)

Along the way we uncovered documents and meet with strangers who enlighten us on the way of this corrupt world, where cover-ups are the norm and secrecy is paramount. The story is episodic and will unfold over six main chapters the developer plans on releasing monthly. Epiphany Games notes that each chapter can be played independently but that a larger story arc emerges if played together. That story, by the way, intends to take to Las Vegas, Mount Kilimanjaro and other exotic locales while investigating government hoaxes and whatnot.

I have to admit, though, that as much fun as uncovering government secrets or shooting a bunch of secret agents can be, it’s all the better when you have a poppin’ score along for the ride. Created by Sydney-based Das Fokks, the tracks hark back to a time when synth-pop was all the rage and the beats were fast and loud (that hasn’t changed much, I guess). The score is excellent and addictive, adding a nice touch to all the drama and action. (Side note: The preview wasn’t able to save option changes regarding how loud everything was, so prepare for everything to scream at you.)

As I mentioned, this was a preview build for “Sunset After Dark,” so some bugs were expected, and I did encounter a few, mainly movement related. Shooting can be incredibly difficult at times, and I’m gathering this has more to do with the fact that the game is isometric than anything else. The stealth mechanics will save the day, but only if you can do them properly. You will find yourself having to strike multiple keys to both get in and exit from behind stealth, and it can lead to a few bullets in your face if you don’t do it right.

In the end, the opening chapter of “Majestic Nights” shows some intriguing promise. The story is insanely interesting, and I find myself wanting to figure out just how high up these cover-ups go. The gameplay is solid enough, if a bit rigid, but the music will more than make up for that.

Oh, and Nazi zombies. I’m told those will show up. Excellent.

Three “I don’t believe it” stars out of five.

Editor’s note: This preview copy of “Chapter Zero – Sunset After Dark” of “Majestic Nights” was provided by Epiphany Games for review. It was reviewed on the PC. It also is available on Mac, iOS and Android platforms. “Chapter Zero” will be free, but each chapter after that will cost $4.99. The game releases Oct. 30, 2014.

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