Critical Play: What Remains of Edith Finch – Eunji Lee

Game Introduction

I played “What Remains of Edith Finch” by Giant Sparrow on iOS (iPad). The target audience is 12+ according to the description on the app store.

Formal Elements

Some important formal elements are the first-person movements, where we see the world through Edith’s eyes and move around to explore by tapping and dragging on the screen. There are also clickable elements (such as a book, journal, etc.) that allow us to dive further into a mini-story within the story.

Types of Fun

This game leans heavily on narrative – we get to experience quite emotional stories about how young people died and what their lives were like before. Some of these stories could stand on their own as short stories or films, but playing as the characters makes the discovery more immersive – we are experiencing in real-time what the members of the Finch family did in the moments leading up to their deaths, which makes the narrative more personal – and therefore more exciting to explore. Players also experience some level of fantasy and discovery; we are pretending to be these characters that are fictional and become invested in their lives and caught up in Edith’s mystery and search as well. The suspense and unique visuals kept me on my toes while I was playing and looking for more clues and pieces to the puzzle, so I’d say this game was very fun and succeeded in its goals! Being able to “walk around” enhanced especially the aspect of discovery for me – I wasn’t being spoonfed information to use in the next level; instead, I was finding the answers myself, and even though text explained part of the narrative, I got to make decisions and choose where I wanted to look to receive this info.

Successes and Failures

Some moments of failure largely included maneuvering around the platform. I don’t think this game was originally intended for iPad, so some of the movements and taps felt a little awkward and I had to keep clicking multiple times to get to the desired result, even though I knew from the visuals that there was something at that place. One moment of success was realizing that for Molly’s story, we had to chase the bird in order to get more of the narrative. I started wandering aimlessly at first, but then realized through the text that Molly was a cat and wanted to follow the bird – therefore, chasing the bird resulted in the desired action!

Changes I Would Make

If I were to change anything about the game (other than making it easier to move around on the iPad) I would allow a fast-forward feature or anything that makes it easier to skip to the next relevant part after figuring out parts of a puzzle. Honestly, the artwork and attention to detail was beautiful so I found myself stopping and looking a lot by choice; the game didn’t feel too slow in many places. Some times, however, I found myself wishing that I could just “unlock” the next clue or piece of information, instead of going through all the motions to walk and get there (this is partly tied to the tapping working only sometimes on the iPad too). For example, in the cat-chasing-bird adventure, I wanted to just be able to get to the end of the chase, where the cat catches the bird, quickly after I figured out the pattern, but that scene went on for like 15 minutes.

Overall, “What Remains of Edith Finch” was a great game, and I really enjoyed being able to feel like a part of the game and its surroundings!

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