2017 has already seen several high profile, high quality games across platforms new and old. Horizon Zero Dawn. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Persona 5. And these are just a few of the widely lauded games so far this year.
Giant Sparrow’s latest release, What Remains of Edith Finch, may be an experience unlike any of these other games, but it deserves to be considered right alongside them.
What Remains of Edith Finch tells the story of a young woman (named Edith Finch, who would have guessed that?) returning to her childhood home years after yet another entry on a long list of tragedies in her family. The game is split between Edith’s exploration of the house, abandoned since she left it years earlier, and the final moments in the lives of several members of the Finch family.
Edith’s portions of the game are all about exploration. She makes her way through the house’s various rooms, gaining access to previously inaccessible areas through secret passages, hidden keys, and more. The story that unfolds along the way is at times intriguing, at others heartbreaking, and always riveting. It doesn’t hit with quite the same impact of the game that reignited this style (Fullbright’s excellent Gone Home), but it’s worthwhile all the same.
It’s the other parts of the game, though, those in which Edith experiences the final moments in her family members’ lives, that are the real highlights. While these sections inform and affect Edith’s understandings of her family’s history and the story players experience with her, it’s their varied, original presentation that makes them stand out.
It’s clear from the first of these experiences that Edith Finch isn’t quite like its contemporaries and predecessors. Players are told early on to throw out expectations of what’s to come, and it’s best to do so and let the game unfold. It’s a little later, in a sequence that sees players through an interactive comic book, that it becomes clear that What Remains of Edith Finch is something special. Much has been said across the internet about a late-game sequence that’s part-mundane cannery job, part-escapist daydream—and for good reason. This sequence is easily the best of what Giant Sparrow has to offer here, but there’s plenty to enjoy throughout its many life-ending sequences, complete with varied gameplay and styles of interaction.
Giant Sparrow is a studio that claims to be built upon finding new ways for players to interact with video games. With experiences. And they’ve done just that. There’s a lot more I could say about What Remains of Edith Finch, but I’m not going to. This is a game best experienced fresh, without preconceived notions of what it’s going to be. There’s no real challenge to speak of, just a compelling journey through one young woman’s life and family. And that journey is one that shouldn’t be missed.
Interactive narrative. Exploration game. Walking simulator. Call it whatever you want. Just play it.
What I played: Played through the entire game twice, exploring and soaking it all in both times (about two hours each time); replayed a few stories for trophies (and fun).
What Remains of Edith Finch is available now for PlayStation 4 (version played) and PC.