This was an amazing experience.
When you approach a game like What Remains of Edith Finch, the word “game” doesn’t really describe it. It’s more of an experience with interactive elements. If you remember the pop-up books with small tabs that let you make parts of the image move a little, that’s probably the best way to explain this game (there’s even a pop-up book in there), but that doesn’t do the narrative justice. This game is a true masterclass in narrative gaming and storytelling.
You play (primarily) as Edith Finch, a pregnant teenager exploring her old family home after her mother passed away and left her a key. The mansion wouldn’t look out of place in Howl’s Moving Castle and is loaded with curiosity, unease, and sorrow. One by one, you investigate all of the rooms that belonged to your family members and explore through an interactive minigame how each of them met their tragic demise in accordance with the apparent “curse” on the Finch family. This game is very heavy, and there will be some dark aspects talked about in this. So, I will pre-warn people that this review will discuss sections that include suicide and infant mortality.
The story is easily in the upper echelons in gaming. There’s so many unusual and enthralling aspects to each of the familial tales that it’s very easy to get lost and absorbed in this macabre tale. It’s extremely easy to place this game on a pedestal and call it a true representation of “games as art”. It tops Detroit: Become Human and can easily stand toe to toe with Heavy Rain. The particular segment I want to mention is one of, if not, the most tragic of the stories; the tale of Lewis Finch, whose story is told to us through a letter from his therapist.
Lewis was a kind person, who loved his family dearly and was very proud of his Indian heritage. In his room you see lots of paraphernalia of drug and alcohol use, but Edith always remembered him as her older brother who she played video games with. However, after the other sibling Milton disappeared (into The Unfinished Swan), Lewis blamed himself and began shutting himself away in his room, where his habits got worse.
After getting a job at a local cannery, he decided to go sober, and then he began to realise how mundane and repetitive his life was. Thus, he creates an imaginary world where he can do amazing things. He conquers a sea serpent, marries the love of his life, and is hailed as the great hero of the world. The difference is that in the imaginary world, he lies down to receive the crown.
But in the real world, it’s heavily implied he decapitated himself using the salmon deheader. This is incredibly dark, and I did get emotional (I didn’t cry, you did) while playing it. It’s a wonderful and tragic exploration of a mind broken by societal mundanity and insecurity, and it deserves praise for that alone.
The house itself is very interesting in design, with each individual room having secret passages and hidden gems to find and are all tied to the characters in an excellent way. The Finch mythology is clearly represented in this structure as chaotic and non-conformist - which seems to be a trait many of the family members wear like a badge of honour.
The hidden villain in this game is also woven in wonderfully, and it may take some time to realise who that is, but once that piece is placed the puzzle becomes only more beautiful to appreciate.
There are no real flaws to this game in all honesty, but the only thing that could really be considered a negative aspect is that the darkness can be overwhelming to some people. One of the tales has you play as a baby who drowns in the bath, there’s Lewis’ tale I mentioned above, and there’s lots of implications of neglect and abuse between family members that can be quite difficult to stomach. I found the scene where you play as a baby difficult, but it is mercifully short.
This game has 10/10 reviews on steam, and it definitely deserves it. Take the interactivity out of it and it would still be amazing to read or watch. Everything in this game is just incredible, and writers should take notes from this game. I definitely did for my literary escapades. It offers just the right amount of interactivity with a story to get lost and immersed in. If you enjoy story-driven games, please, add this to your hit list. It’s no question that this game is easily one of the best out there.
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