Death has been a part of video games since the early days. Normally it means game over for the player and starting again at a checkpoint, but What Remains of Edith Finch by Giant Sparrow takes a different viewpoint with death. In fact it takes many different viewpoints. You are Edith Finch, a woman returning to her childhood home after many years away. A childhood home with a few more quirks than most.

Normally the twist here would be horror focused, but that’s not the case with What Remains of Edith Finch. You are at your childhood house for a reason that becomes clearer as you progress through the game, but for the most part you’re there to reminisce. The Finches believe that they are a cursed family and numerous family members have met their demise prematurely.

As you play through the game you’ll find diaries and prompts to help you find out how they left this plane of existence. Some of them are tragically amusing. Others are just tragic. The game doesn’t pull punches but also tries its best to not recycle mechanics and stories. Each diary you find will lead to something that controls or looks differently to what you’ve played before.

It helps to break up the mundanity of the walking simulator core of the game. You’re never more than five minutes from the next point and the world around you is littered with environmental story telling. There’s a lot of detail put in to the world and there’s plenty of little touches that help bring it to life.

The use of subtitles in the game is also fantastic. Whereas most games put them in as an after thought in What Remains of Edith Finch they are an integral part to the way it tells its story. Rather than appearing at the bottom of the screen the text is placed around the environment. Sometimes you’ll trigger it by approaching something or interacting with it, but the placement of the text is always carefully thought out. On one occasion it may work as a visual prompt, on another it works to frame what you’re looking at better. It’s nice in an age where subtitles are often an afterthought to have them used in this way.

Like most games in the walking simulator genre there are bits you can ignore to speed up the start of the end credits, but in doing that you’re just cheating yourself. What Remains of Edith Finch is an experience you should take your time with. It’s not an overly long game, coming in at just over two hours, and is definitely better playing through in one sitting if you can.

Once you’ve completed it you’ll find it easy to revisit your favourite parts too. As you find out about each family member Edith fills in the family tree in her journal. You’ll have the option to go back and see each family members last moments at your leisure and consume them like the short stories they are. It may sound morbid but, as the Let’s Play at the bottom of the review shows, the way things are told have some interesting game mechanics and don’t feel as tragic as they would do if told from someone else’s perspective.

What Remains of Edith Finch is a great looking game that will be talked about for years to come. Its handling of a usually dark subject matter is delicate and the game mechanics make it stand out in the walking simulator genre. The overarching story to the game is complimented by the short stories of the Finch’s. The whole thing revolves around a family life that is relatable whilst also remaining fantastical which makes what could be a dull affair a captivating one.

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You can watch a video of me playing the opening half an hour of the game below.

 



Author

Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bretteh2