It’s been a while, but we’re back with some games that I got into while we were on a Twilight Zone kick!
Some time ago, I picked up a game called Gone Home which one might call a walking simulator, in that you spend the entire game walking around a house getting clues about a family while finding neat little secret passages. The game is not exciting, but it is totally immersive, and for a mere $2, I found myself deeply interested in the story. I played the game through in one sitting. This is not a feat; the game might run 90 minutes. Some time later, I found another walking simulator which Epic Games released for free called Tacoma. This was superior in that there’s a real mystery and it was more my speed, which is to say: Sci-fi. I actually still highly recommend this game. So I got talking to a good friend of mine over dinner one night and he suggested I try What Remains of Edith Finch. I’d seen it many times and it looked interesting but I hadn’t picked it up. As his recommendations are usually on the money, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The opening is cinematic as you disembark from a ferry. Then we start a story of a family that suffered way too much tragedy to be believed. It’s a bit heartbreaking. But it’s told in a way that lures you in and, not unlike the other games mentioned above, I played in one sitting. The mellow music and the voice acting sells the story, but it’s improved upon by some amazing graphics. First off, the house you are exploring is a construct of dreams. I mean, it’s amazing to look at, with additions all over the place and, like Gone Home, chock full of secret passages and clever doorways. For instance, to get out of one room, there’s a book locked in place, but as you turn a page you realize part of the book has been cut out to hide the handle to the door.
Each family member is represented by their likes, interests and jobs. One of the early rooms was painted in a way I would love to mirror. The room is an undersea scene creating the feeling of walking around in a aquarium. Another room, shared by twins, has an adventure theme on one side and a space scene on the other. And it shows the cultural significance of Star Trek in the poster reading “space, the final frontier”. Of course, I loved this area, but didn’t get enough of it.
There are a number of stories to be uncovered in the game, for each of the family members that have passed away. The first one I encountered was that of a little girl who, through reading her diary, you take on the role of a cat. You leap from tree branch to tree branch in the hopes of catching a bird. Then you morph into other creatures. I had to laugh as she “turned into a shark” and went rolling down a hill. There’s one part that really suckered me in… you get to play as a monster, moving a tentacle about to eat people. Visually stunning, but also, hey, I like octopi; I don’t have enough of them in games, especially where I get to play as one.
One story that really grabbed me was executed brilliantly as a comic book, read by a Crypt Keeper. It might as well have been an episode of Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt. It’s got a sense of humor to it, but it turns dark too. While comical (in both comic book sense, and humorous terms), I was surprised to hear the actual Halloween theme used throughout this sequence. It’s the one horror series I still like, though I can’t really say why, but to have that music featured really impressed me. I also loved the use of the classic monsters. Just look: Frankenstein, the mummy, the metaluna monster, a nosferatu in the background and a creature from the black lagoon… Acknowledgement, I say!
At the end, there’s both beauty and sadness in this game but it’s summed up perfectly by the journal reader who calls it a “story about the amazing thing that is life.” This isn’t a game that will rock anyone’s world but it will give the gamer a relaxing, introspective couple of hours. Sometimes it’s nice just playing a simple game. I half expected to start it, play for a few minutes, then jump over to a more exciting game, but found I couldn’t stop once I’d started. I realized after I’d played it that it was like watching a movie; I just had more control than I do when sitting down for a drama. It cost me less (I paid $8 for it) and I can go back to it whenever I want to explore that world again.
I wouldn’t say walking simulators are my thing, but I love a good story and this one certainly kept me entertained. Check out the trailer, below. ML