California based Games Developers, Giant Sparrow, have created yet another masterpiece, this time in the form of What Remains of Edith Finch. This truly extraordinary magical-realism adventure often reminds me of other narrative-driven offerings, such as Dear Esther, Firewatch and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. The game plays like an interactive children’s picture book even presenting you with elegant handwritten subtitles that hover over the scenic backdrops only to dissipate in equal beauty. There is no combat and very little in the way of puzzles. You really are here to simply bask in the harmony and grace of great story-telling. Upon finishing I was left with the feeling that I really had witness something special. It is haunting in its splendor and left a long lasting mark on my heart and soul.
The roughly 2 hours of game time explores the beautifully tragic lives of the Finch family tree. You assume the protagonist and sole survivor Edith Finch as she returns to the abandoned family home after receiving news of her mother’s death. She is there to explore the hidden truths behind her deceased relatives peculiar existences and the curse that seems to have encompassed each generation. As you investigate the degenerated wooden house you find vestiges that belonged to the deceased and this wrenches you into a first-hand account of the events that led to their eventual demise. Each story has its own wonders to offer and the inventive choice of what and when you control elements keeps your curiosity well and truly enriched. The house itself is wonderfully thought out. You effortlessly glide from room to room, and story to story without anything feeling forced or linear. While games like ‘Life is Strange’ sometimes over-do it on the number of items to observe, everything felt intelligently and subtly placed only adding to my intrigue as I searched further.
“Upon finishing I was left with the feeling that I really had witness something special.”
In a game without combat or time-bound pressures, it really does need to deliver on atmosphere and in-depth theme development. I can safely say What Remains of Edith Finch does that flawlessly. You start the game following a trodden path through thick conifers eventually leading to the derelict and unforgettable family house. The art design blends a realistic look with cartoon features evoking a fairytale-like quality throughout. The house was a particularly strong point, presenting you with hidden cuvee holes and secret passages symbolic of all that the family kept concealed for so many years. Award-winning Composer Jeff Russo provided a soothing score as beautiful as the visuals that accompany it. I think what impressed me the most about the game was how it manages to portray stories that are ultimately about death in such an exuberant and positive light. I was always left with a sense of optimism and fascination upon finishing each story.
“…it manages to portray stories that are ultimately about death in such an exuberant and positive light.”
While the game itself is short the effect it had on me was everlasting. Upon completion I wanted more, and isn’t that how it should be? There is, of course, great replay value and once you have finished the game there is the option of selecting each story to play again. I have since dipped back into some of my favorite tales to relive their captivating splendors and read up on the family history to further piece together the peculiar tragedy that is the world of the Finch family. Even now as I write this, the distant echoes of the lives laid out in What Remains of Edith Finch still plague me in subtle tranquility.