Now I must be candid for this review and admit that… I did not play this game. It’s weird, but I ended up buying it back in August and really, REALLY wanted to play and review it, as I’d heard incredible things about the game. However, when I began, I realised that when I tried to play, I felt incredibly sick. Like, nauseated to the point of being unable to do anything for the rest of the day. The camera movement was WAY too sensitive, and I tried and tried but couldn’t find a setting in the Nintendo Switch version that allowed me to adjust it. I played on the TV, in handheld mode, and over a couple of days to make sure that I wasn’t the problem.
What did I do, then? I ended up searching YouTube and found a full playthrough without commentary, made sure that the camera wasn’t jerking around, set it to full-screen, and watched it. I normally wouldn’t do this, but from what I understood in my short time playing the game that it was one to be watched more than interacted with. Sure, you were required to interact with the game at several points to move the story forward, but the experience isn’t dampened whether you or someone else does it. At least, in my opinion. I really wanted to be able to play the game that I bought, and this was the next best thing. I hope that doesn’t invalidate this review in your eyes.
Developed by Giant Sparrow, What Remains of Edith Finch is a game about grief, loss, and dealing with the inevitability of death. If that sounds like a drag, it’s really not. The story revolves around the Finch family, who are said to have been cursed. It’s not a spooky curse or anything, no ghosts or angry wizards involved, but it’s well-known that if you’re a Finch, you’re going to have to make peace with untimely (often early) deaths.
Edith Finch, the last of the Finches, has inherited the house after the death of her mother, and is tasked with discovering its secrets. She journeys throughout the house and slowly unfolds the lives, and deaths, of her family members, experiencing them as they happen. It’s a beautiful story, and I often found myself leaning forward in my chair in anticipation of what would happen next. Each Finch is made to be so alive, they feel like real people. Just as I felt like I’d really begun to get to know each family member, they were taken away from me, which I believe was the developer’s intention. Their sadness and tragic lives are gripping, and though the game is only around 2-2.5 hours long, it left me more shaken up than most movies trying to achieve the same effect.
This game is not entirely concerned with how it looks, rather than what it is showing. It is definitely not aiming to be extremely realistic, and you are unable to interact with the environment outside of what the game wants you to interact with. However, this does not make the game any less beautiful.
The Finch house, to put it mildly, is drowning in books. There are books everywhere. The house is full of personality and each room you uncover feels so real and lived-in, it’s amazing. You really understand the essence of each character just by being in their room, which speaks volumes, as almost all of the characters we get to know are already dead.
As you journey through the lives and deaths of the Finches, you can see different things from their varying perspectives – a child may see the world in bright colours with toys coming to life, a teenager may have their story played out in a comic book, and an adult may see things play out in a more grim manner. Some stories are told in first-person; others look like an entirely new video game with cel-shaded graphics, and it’s this variety that keeps this game interesting.
Like most of the games I review, What Remains of Edith Finch is entirely story-based, with the only interaction required from the player being moving forward and interacting with objects on occasion. Edith moves throughout the house, opening doors and windows, climbing through hidden passageways full of books, and opens up the notes and journals from her ancestors to read them. During the recollections of her ancestor’s deaths, some objects can be moved by the player to prompt more story-telling words on screen. At times, the player can also dictate the narrative by choosing between multiple narrative choices. There is no rush, and players can spend as much time as they want taking in the scenery of each environment.
This game, its story, its characters, really stuck with me for a long time after I watched the credits roll. The ending, though predictable, still caught me by surprise. I think the story tackles some topics that games don’t really cover in the way this one does, as many games often treat death as something to be dismissed without a further thought. I will be thinking about this game for a very long time, as is the developer’s intention, I’m sure. I’m so glad I got to experience this, even if it wasn’t first-hand.
VERDICT – “Loved It”
Rating scale for games, from best to worst:
- Loved it
- Liked it
- I mean… it’s aight
- Just… don’t.
- Certified trash, burn immediately
What Remains of Edith Finch is available on Nintendo Switch for $19.99 USD/€19,99 EUR.