Thursday, 11 May 2017

What remain's of Edith Finch review

A series of unfortunate rooms.

I'm going to start this review by discussing a different game, former critical darling, Gone Home. To be honest I hated Gone Home. Like many I invested my cash in it purely due to the high praise from critics and at first thought I was playing a horror game due to the darkness and thunder storm outside. I wandered round a mundane house as occasional bits of dialogue were recited to me about two characters coming to terms with their respective sexualities. The fact that Gone Home was dealing with sexuality seemed to be 99% of the justification of all the praise it received, and while games should deal with such issues, that allow doth not a good game maketh.

So why have I spent the first paragraph of this review banging on about about Gone Home? Because Edith Finch (as I'll call the game for the rest of this review due to laziness) is the game Gone Home, in many ways, should and could have been. The game begins with an unknown character reading a book on a boat, and in that book is the tale of Edith Finch. This Tale recounts Edith's return to her old and strange family house, located in an isolated area of woodland by the sea on a small island, a house that as Edith herself states just seems to have too much of itself.

Playing as Edith you wander around her family home and its many locked rooms, initially only visible through peepholes in the doors, slowly finding your way into secret places and discovering the stories of various family members, all whom met with tragic ends. The house itself is remarkably detailed, from the large amount of tinned salmon cans in the kitchen, to the bird cages in Edith's great Grandmothers room that contain pictures of deceased pets. Every nook and cranny tells its own little story. The feel of the house is very similar to that of the film version of 'A series of unfortunate events' and I wouldn't be surprised if the games creators (Giant Sparrow, who had previously created the unfinished swan) were influenced by it to some degree.

While wandering around Edith's abandoned home makes up the meat of the gameplay you'll also regularly encounter a variety of objects that provide information to Edith of how each member of the Finch family met their end. Some of these objects are simple things such as a flick book or a small toy projector. Others such as letters and comic books whisk the player into the shoes of the very character who they are about. These sections often use imaginative presentation to give the game a greater sense of variety, including a horror comic presented in a cell shaded style (complete with Halloween music) and a section where you play as various animals hunting down prey. Some of the stories are very abstract and metaphorical, offering only hints as to how that person lost their life, while others are more blatant in their approach.

Indeed, in spite of the slightly surreal feel of the house and the at times almost magical nature of the stories within, Edith Finches story is one of tragedy. This story of loss is almost light hearted in the early stages, but as the game progresses a sense of sorrow begins to creep in as the player starts to understand that this is a family plagued by tragic many that they began to blame curses and unseen forces. Do these forces exist? well that's very much left up to your imagination, but I can say one thing...What remains of Edith Finch never really tries overly hard to pull at your heart strings, its not trying to be blatant...and if I'm honest it's a story that I'm not confident I fully understood...but it is a story that made me get a little choked up towards the end without really understand why. Now that is something of an achievement, especially as I'm generally about as emotional as a stone statue of Maggie Thatcher.

There are a few small flaws though, the biggest of which is simply the games length. If you were to rush through it (which you shouldn't) you'd likely be able to get to the finish well within two hours. There's also not really that much gameplay with most of your time being spent simply wandering around the Finches most unusual home. But in all truth it's been a while since I've played an Indie game that's intrigued me as much as what remains of Edith Finch. If you're a fan of games that make you think, feel and wonder then it should certainly be on your list.


Time for the clean up

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