I had no expectations going in to this game. I've heard from certain individuals it's the best thing they've played and others that it is awful and irritating. When there are two opposite sides like that I usually side with the one thinking its bad, but I really like this game. It is brilliant within its own boundaries.
The first thing that happens in this game is that you meet Ren, an individual that talks nonstop. That is really irritating but after a while it becomes obvious that also the main character Alex finds him quite obnoxious and tells him constantly to shut up. The interactions with Ren becomes enjoyable instead as I can use him as my verbal punching bag.
Just after a few minutes the game starts playing with your expectations on an adventure game and does the opposite. It punches you in a stomach for thinking you know the rules of an adventure game and that is what makes it thrilling. If you have played LucasArts games, Broken Age or Broken Sword you will have a fun time getting your expectations thrown around. And that also makes me excited. My pulse goes up, not because it is a story about the paranormal, but because I'm not sure what will happen in the next scene. Will I die? Will I undie? Will the world turn upside down?
This story is very much dialogue driven and in parts environmental story telling. There are two things the game does very well. The first is character building and the other is environments.
The characters have depth. You can sense that there is a history between them and each have their own baggage they bring into this adventure. It is really masterfully done, but not only in the creation of these characters but also the way they develop during the course of the game. How the individuals change because of the situation but also how the relationships between these individuals develop as things gets scarier and nastier.
The art style is splendid and the game is great to look at, but what I really like is they way they have crafted each area to communicate something. The areas changes when you get back to them and things will happen that didn't the first time you passed through. This makes backtracking not really backtracking at all just making a new journey through known territory. Otherwise I'm completely allergic to backtracking in games under the rule don't waste my time but in this game the backtracking is used to tell more of the island and get the characters to interact and develop their relationships.
The overall story arc is quite classic, but it threw me off at times with twists that I couldn't anticipated and this is very rare for me. I enjoy the story. I enjoy it to a point where I can't put the game down and I ended up playing almost the whole thing in 1 day. When it gets cheesy the characters are there to point it out and make it humerus. This is what I really like about it. It presents itself with self distance.
Game play you control Alex by walking around following paths in the world. In one way it feels limiting to only stick on paths, in another way you don't have to walk aimlessly looking for things to interact with, which other adventure games are burdened with. The main focus here is not puzzle solving, it is the adventure and exploration part. In that sense the game play is good and walking a straight line is ok. Sometimes I have a hard time to get Alex to do exactly what I want, but it is not an issue as there is no task that needs to be completed in a limited time. You're never hunted by anything or stressed.
My main problem with this game is that the characters are so small. It takes forever until I get a grasp on what Alex looks like, all I can see is a blue hair and red jacket. This becomes hard when characters respond with body language as I can hardly make out what they're doing. Instead their body language becomes exaggerated like Alex hanging her head really low when she feels down. I get where they're going with this but it makes it harder to connect with the characters and I think they could have solved it with zooming in and out a bit better.
To summarize, this is the best adventure game I've played this year. The game's length, about 4 hours, is perfect. The story is well balanced, the characters and dialogue is well written and the ending was great. Good job Night School Studio!