Another indie game completed. Sometimes I just need to prioritize squeezing these in between the bigger games I play (and replay!) and then I discover that it doesn’t take me long to complete indie games like these.
Today’s indie game review is none other than What Remains of Edith Finch. I have seen a couple of other bloggers review this game and it has also received numerous awards. When I first saw the trailer, it looked like a horror game to me but I was proven to be wrong about that when I finally sat down to play it myself. It seems to be quite popular with my fellow female gamers, probably because of the theme.
So, what is it really about then?
This game is about a the Finch family that is said to live with an unknown curse where all but one child per generation die, leaving only them to continue on the family line. No one knows the cause for this, but when Odin and his remaining daughter, Edie try to escape this curse, Odin drowns from capsizing waves and Edie is left to build a new home near the crash site. She then goes onto have several children where she loses all except one of them. The cycle repeats with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In the year 2017, Edith Finch Jr. (Edie’s great-granddaughter) returns to the house (which she had not been back to since she was 11) after the death of her mother, Dawn. Now at 17 years old and 22 weeks pregnant (which makes me wonder what she was up to all this time after her mom died, since that’s a really young age to get pregnant) and explores the house to discover the secrets of her family’s past starting at the bottom to the very top, until she reaches her own room at the highest additional story built, hoping to share what she has learned with her unborn child.
Gameplay is described as a walking simulator by some where you explore hidden passages throughout the house and interact with objects. As I went along, Edith would narrate everything to keep me on the path. When I first entered the house, it was like people were still living there with all the furniture and belongings remaining, despite a lot of clutter. Edie’s children’s rooms were all sealed off by Dawn, but Edie made peepholes in the doors and the passages to enter. When I explored each room, I noticed that everything in there had been left the way it was and there was a shrine for each deceased child. Upon interacting with each shrine, I would then be transported to play a vignette of each of their deaths.
Each one of them can be simple or complex such as Calvin’s story requires you to make him continue to swing higher until he loops over the branch and flies into the ocean, while with Lewis it takes some multitasking by continuing to move the fish to the guillotine and onto the conveyor belt in the cannery while also controlling the image of him that takes place in his mind. All of the stories and their gameplay reflect each family member’s lifestyle and personality.
I remember I didn’t understand Molly’s at first, though her room was really cute. There was no reason why she was sent to bed without dinner and given how otherworldly the story is, suggests that not only was it a dream she had, but also the possibility that she died from eating a bunch of things she was not supposed to. So, with that being said, hers was the most vague out of all the stories. I think Barbara’s came second place to that, but after playing through a second time, did I realize what really happened to her.
But what I like about them is the way these vignettes play out. Edith is just reading these final notes, but when I go into the shoes of that family member, it becomes a vivid experience that works and really absorbs you. It doesn’t have a straightforward approach that shows their deaths. It does it in a clever way that whichever character it was, doesn’t always make it feel like it’s death.
For example, Gregory who was just an infant when he died, he had a wild imagination while playing in the tub with his toys, and in his story you take control of his toy frog and figure out what to do from there. When he manages to turn the water back on, you know that he drowns in the tub, but the game portrays it as something else, like Gregory just got totally lost in his imagination, went under and into a happy place.
Of course, his mother Kay is stupid as hell leaving him in the tub unsupervised while she answers the phone. Even if it was Sam calling, he could have just left a voicemail. Kay was also so worried about Gregory overhearing, but why should she care so much? Like I said, Gregory is just a baby, he won’t remember or understand any of it.
But you get what I mean right? The same thing can be said for Lewis’s story, even if I didn’t enjoy it as much. It’s not shown as him committing suicide, but like it’s him finally walking into his dream world where he becomes king.
On the other hand there were some stories where death was completely obvious like Walter is hit by a train and Sam is knocked off a cliff, but still. I had to play through more than once to really appreciate how all of this is done and how tragic it really is.
Another praise I can give this game is the details into the house itself. Some places are well-designed, even that over-the-top pink bathroom and I’m impressed by the additional lofts that were added on top of the house’s main roof.
Everything came together when I reached the highest loft where Edith’s room was. Her mother Dawn was the first to realize this had gone on long enough after losing both Milton and Lewis; however the former didn’t die, he just simply disappeared and no one knows where he has gone. Edith discovers a journal written by Edie about family’s history. After she and her mother leave, the latter later dies from an illness which sets the game’s present events.
It ends with her [Edith Jr.] passing down all she has written in her diary to her son who eventually does visit the house as well as she died giving birth to him. The “curse” has never left obviously, it’s just too bad there was no way to lift it in the game, that would made it even better.
I’ve heard many players admit they cried playing this. I did not, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t find it sad, maybe I’ve just played so many games with emotional events that I don’t always tear up over it.
So, it’s definitely not like any other indie game I’ve played, but it’s an emotional experience that you don’t forget easily. If a game can do that to me, it means I like it.