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Mexico 1921: A Deep Slumber might be worth a go for Pentiment fans craving a fresh stop in the historical gaming time machine

Mácula Interactive’s intriguing creation feels like it might have a crack at delivering a unique history lesson, even if it’s not quite Pentiment

A journalist, hunched over an investigation board, ponders the connection between two events. The Wishlisted logo sits in the bottom right corner of the image.
Image credit: VG247

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Mexican history prior to trying out the Steam demo for Mexico 1921: A Deep Slumber, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

My knowledge of the country’s history was largely limited to that bit in Red Dead Redemption that sees Bill Williamson decide to go running to Javier Escuella, and stuff I’d read on Wikipedia about the cultural impact of luchador El Santo. I thought the game’s art style looked interesting, and so I delved in.

Check out Wishlisted, our video showcase of Steam Next Fest's best demos!

Coming out of it, I still hadn’t managed to absorb much about Mexican history in the early 20th century, aside from the names of some people and groups. What I had done was parachuted into the shoes of a detective, who – it’s fair to say – was quite ticked off about the recent assassination of president Álvaro Obregón. Perhaps it was the mysterious circumstances surrounding the affair, or the myriad strings of post-revolutionary Mexico’s political sphere that solving it could involve tugging at. Maybe he was just a bit annoyed to have - as a very serious man - been rendered in an endearingly cartoony form.

Either way, I strode as this man through the police station, examining key bits of evidence, interrogating people who could be linked to the killing, and watching back a black and white-filtered reproduction of Obregón’s demise. Then, I met the game’s actual protagonist – the journalist Juan Aguirre. Yep, I’ve chosen to write about a game in which you play as a journalist, a bit like Bob the Builder electing to write his masters dissertation on the philosophical question of whether we can indeed fix ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ might be.

A journalist looks at a board of information with strings connecting the dots.
Nobody do the Charlie meme, please. | Image credit: Macula Interactive

The demo only offers one mission as Aguirre to play through, making it tough to gauge whether the rest of the game will follow the same blueprint – given that the detective section that kicks things off essentially feels like one long intro sequence. However, it did leave me interested in seeing where Macula Interactive takes things with the rest of it.

You see, while Mexico 1921 is a lot more simplistic in terms of its point and click investigation mechanics and dialogue trees than the games aspects of it vaguely reminded me of, it does feel like there’s something interesting at the core of the thing – assuming people are as intrigued by the historical and cultural setting as I was.

I’ll start off by telling you about my favourite feature Aguirre can use as he wanders around a grandiose main square underneath a painted sky that’s straight out of some cool Mexican fresco – nosey mode. It’s basically the same kind of conversation eavesdropping mechanic games like Assassin’s Creed have included for years, but named in a manner that dispenses with the usual pretence of letting you pretend you’re some kind of cool secret agent.

Nope, as Aguirre wanders around asking union members who sent them here to protest today and goofily hiding behind stuff to listen in on their chats, the game is clear – he’s just a nosey bastard. A nosey bastard with a camera no less, one he can use to take pictures as evidence or just to earn historical collectables.

A case file open with images and tasks listed for Mexico 1921.
Just in case. | Image credit: Macula Interactive

There’s a bit of lovable jankiness to the character models used to render the people you’ll be chatting to or snooping on. Basically, some of them look quite funny, in a similar fashion to the likes of LA Noire’s over the top guilty or not guilty expression mechanics. A good laugh at times, but not in a way that necessarily takes you out of the other stuff that’s going on to a problematic degree.

Basically, some of the residents of Mexico feel a bit like they’ve time-warped in from a Wallace and Gromit episode, but you’re learning things about constitutions and the desire of human rights, so it all kinda balances out. And to be fair, as Pentiment’s shown, it’s very good for narrative-focused games with bibliographies the length of War and Peace to have a sense of humour – whether strictly intentional or not – that can break up the slew of facts and serious story beats. That said, I’ll be interested to see whether decisions like those few offered to the player during Mexico 1921’s demo actually amount to much consequence, given its focus on maintaining historical accuracy.

Overall, you can tell that the folks at Mácula really care about what they’ve created, and are clearly very passionate about using the game to help showcase and teach people about Mexico’s unique history and culture. It’s an admirable goal, and the game it produces probably isn’t going to be up everyone’s alley - judging by the demo, non-Mexican history buffs will have to do a fair amount of homework to fully grasp the events being portrayed.

A journalist talks to the member of a political movement in Mexico 1921.
Look, journalism is important, OK? | Image credit: Macula Interactive

Coming out of the Steam demo for Mexico 1921: A Deep Slumber, I still feel like I don’t know that much about Mexican history. I definitely struggle to tell my Morones unionists from my Cristeros, but I’m hopeful that once the full game comes out, it’ll be able to tread the difficult to negotiate line between serious historical doc and actually fun video game to a degree that’ll make me want to learn all of the lessons and absorb all of the culturally distinct stories it has to offer.


Check out the other featured games in VG247, RockPaperShotgun, and Eurogamer's Wishlisted event at the hub page – including a nice, meaty video that shows you why we're so into the collected games.

Check out Mexico, 1921. A Deep Slumber on Steam at the link.

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