Thanks to the January sale, I finally picked up What Remains of Edith Finch. And wow. So, let’s chat (I’ll be covering spoilers later, but I’ll give fair warning).
Developed by Giant Sparrow, the people who made The Unfinished Swan, this is the type of adventure game idiots have taken to labelling a “walking simulator” (I have strong opinions on this topic, remind me to rant about it in a post at some point). The game focuses heavily on story and narration, and therefore falls squarely in the adventure genre without the “action” tacked on.
The game starts off the way I love a narrative game to start: with no context, just an intriguing intro. From then on out it’s just a calm trek through the story, which later turns out to have a lot of emotional impact.
Spoiler warning: I’ll be covering story elements now. I’ll end this section with some more bold text so you can’t miss it.
Just like The Unfinished Swan, What Remains of Edith Finch chooses to start on a quieter note. You play as Edith Finch who is returning to her childhood home after her mother has died. She narrates the story, and quickly you learn that this family has an amazingly interesting history.
The story follows various members of the family, as they all deal with the vague but ominous Finch family curse. The arrive at the house, and it looks ramshackle. It looks like something out of a Dr Suess book, or like the Weasley house is described in the Harry Potter books. It’s big, and it has many improvised additions, culminating in a tall and unstable looking tower on one side. The image attached to this post shows the house in profile. This makes for an amazing setting.
The atmosphere is slightly creepy, but it’s never filled with tension. This is not a game with any horror or jump scares. Yet, there’s an eeriness that the developers have designed into everything. Every creak of the house, every howl of the wind hints at the history this house and it’s long-gone family have shared. The whole place is cramped and filled with furniture, books, and odd-and-ends, giving it a personality you later learn comes from Edie, Edith’s great-grandmother. She left her mark on this house, and so did many of the other ex-residents, in their own ways.
While young Edith narrates and acts as your vehicle to explore the house, you end up playing bits and pieces of each member’s story and their inevitable, and bizarrely interesting, deaths related to the curse. Each family member is given a fair share, and each individual story is engrossing and emotionally impactful.
So far in this spoiler section it’s been rather mild, but what comes next is the most spoilerific. Be warned.
Quite late in the game, you end up in Edith’s brother Milton’s room. He disappeared as a child, and during the course of the game you find paintings of his littering the walls of the house and its secret passages. It’s only when you get to his room that it clicks. His room is stark white, with black paint everywhere. There are paintings and drawings representing designs and locations we play in during The Unfinished Swan. The implication is that Milton’s disappearance is somehow linked with what takes place in The Unfinished Swan.
In fact, Milton appears to be the king from that game. You find a story flip-book made my Milton, where he discovers a magic paintbrush. He then paints a doorway, and off he vanishes. Up until this point, each character’s tragedy had been poignant, yet something made this even more impactful. The fact that this is a nod to The Unfinished Swan being connected to this universe enriched both games. It lends “credibility” to the curse we’ve been observing in the mini-tragedies until now. This was probably my favourite part of the game.
And now, that’s it for the spoilers.
See, I told you. The spoilers are over now.
Just like The Unfinished Swan, I finished this game and had to sit in silence for a bit processing. The story was excellently crafted, and almost left me in an emotional wreck afterwards.
The overall design of this game gave this game even more impact. The music and sound fleshed everything out, set the right mood for specific sections, and are excellently designed. Along with the simple-yet-beautiful art style, the game comes together as a phenomenal whole. I’m happy I got to play this now. Giant Sparrow have successfully converted a new fan, since both of their games are just brilliant.
If you’re on the fence with this one, but love narrative and adventure games and also liked The Unfinished Swan, then you absolutely need to get off that fence.
Three thumbs up from me.