Developer: Giant Sparrow
Platform: Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
A very short, engaging, and creative little stroll through Edith Finch’s family tree and the curse that has followed the family for centuries.
I’ve never been a huge fan of first-person adventure games (Portal excepted). I think it’s in part because I feel detached from the protagonist and in part due to not wanting to spend my time using the WASD keys to get around. Even this game was at risk of hitting the trash bin in the first five minutes. Not much story happens at the beginning, and when you enter the ginormous house (from Edith’s childhood) you see at least two thousand books, many of them repeating over and over and over. Talk about pulling me out of the moment art team.
Quickly, though, I forgave that faux pas. There are a bazillion “explore an old house games”, but I’m not sure I’ve had more fun exploring one before. The game’s hook is that as you enter rooms that belonged to members of your extensive family tree, you find letters or diaries that transport the player into the most important moment of that person’s life. You begin controlling them, rather than Edith, and you are powerless to change history, directly experiencing that person’s fate. But what makes this special is that each experience is entirely different. In one you turn into different animals and move through the world as them; in another, you advance the story by taking Polaroids; and in my favorite, you enter into the world of a comic book, replete with the genre’s style. There’s virtually no tedium once the game gets going.
On top of that, most of the stories have emotional resonance. A couple of the stories in particular surprised me with how they impacted my mood. While I don’t love this game as much as most people, I can’t imagine many people disliking it. It took me just three hours to see everything there was to see, which I think was the right length considering this is more of an interactive story with virtually no puzzles. I saw the ending coming a mile away, but I don’t think it was meant to be a secret: just a natural conclusion to this compelling character.