What Remains Of Edith Finch Review – Family Matters

I was going to make a Madness reference, but this house isn’t in the middle of a street so it didn’t work.

Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed)
Released: April 25, 2017
Copy provided by publisher 

The public has settled into calling them “walking simulators” although the developers of such games would likely prefer “interactive drama” or “exploration-based narrative-driven experience.” Either way, What Remains of Edith Finch is one of them – a game more passive than proactive, a title that features interactivity primarily as a means to further a story.

It’s also one of the best examples of its kind to release in a long, long time.

After far too many games that think simply making the player stare at other peoples’ bland lives was enough to conjure up an award-winning journey, Edith Finch shows the pretenders how it’s done and present a story that deeply enough involves its audience to make both highs and lows hit impressively hard.

A young girl returns to her family home after an undisclosed “event” that saw she and her mother depart the eccentric island residence built and inhabited by the Finch family for over a century. Due to what has popularly become known as a curse, members of the Finch family have a habit of meeting untimely deaths, and the matriarch, Edith, preserves their memory by keeping their bedrooms intact and having new ones built for any fresh Finches born.

The protagonist’s mother sealed away these sentimentally ghoulish tributes to her family – both old and new – but What Remains of Edith Finch cracks open these doors to reveal the lives – and unfortunate deaths – of each member of the family tree.

As players are guided around the Finch house through secret passages and endearingly Wonka-esque architecture, they’ll find books and letters that reveal how every member of the protagonist’s family was undone before their time. Dialog appears as text in the world itself, sometimes interacted with, often used to deftly punctuate a particular good line.

Each story has its own feel – some are lighthearted, others more sombre in tone, and a handful are simply disturbing. They can be direct or fantastical, and many are truly quite sad, especially those tales regarding the younger members of the family.

Furthermore, there’s a difference in interactivity between every chapter. While most of it takes place from the first-person perspective common to the genre, Giant Sparrow has had fun seeing exactly how many ways it can tinker with a format that usually consists solely of walking and listening.

Whether players are turning into animals or creeping around a cel-shaded version of the house ripped from a Creepshow style comic book (complete with the Halloween theme tune), Edith Finch regularly surprises with its ability to take the least explored element of interactive fiction – the interactive part – and try to be more inventive than its peers.

It’s an attempt that pays off in spades, creating a compilation of tragic recollections that feel distinct in presentation but cohesive enough to work together as a fluid, seamless journey.

Backed by a beautiful soundtrack and imaginative visuals that reflect the vibrant – if unusual – minds of the Finches, What Remains is a delightfully presented production. A handful of slow walking sequences that build things a little too much, as well as hit-or-miss (but mostly hit) voice acting holds things back, but not by too much.

For the most part, Edith Finch nails pacing and direction far better than the vast majority of comparable games and it places the player first, ensuring they’re in each story rather than acting as a glorified camera operator for somebody else’s adventure. Ironic, considering one of the stories quite literally has you take photographs of others the entire time.

This will be a short review, because What Remains of Edith Finch relies on discovery and revelation to make its punches truly wallop the audience. To give you a brief idea of how wildly far from the expected this game can get, though – the very first story begins with a 10-year-old girl eating gerbil food, toothpaste, and berries before turning into a cat… and that’s mundane compared to where she goes from there.

That’s just the first of several stories, and while they vary in terms of tone and interaction, they’re all undoubtedly tragic.

Many games have attempted to tug at its audience’s heartstrings, but few are possessed of enough subtlety and elegance to succeed. For such developers who think “emotional” is an apt descriptor without qualification, the heights achieved by Giant Sparrow might as well be as the Sun to Icarus.

What Remains of Edith Finch is not an “emotional” game, because I can actually name the emotions it evokes. Amusement, sorrow, and sentimentality, to name some. While it didn’t bring literal tears to my eyes, there are moments that certainly feel like a kick to the soul thanks to impeccable writing and direction.

By varying its approach and exploring new areas for the realm of interactive fiction, Giant Sparrow has crafted a game worthy of the praise so liberally lavished upon its peers.

9.5/10
Superb

Xell
Guest
Xell

Better than Uncharted, No Man’s Sky, Breath of the Wild, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and Yooka-Laylee.

Have I missed one? Is this joke still going on? Is all the shit Jim gets ironic now? Do people even care? Answer: no. Jim stopped caring 3-4 days after each of the reviews got shit.

Viggo
Guest
Viggo

Thanks Jim

mrhair
Guest
mrhair

Saw this on the PSN, but wasn’t really expecting to see it reviewed here. I’m not sure our tastes in this genre are very similar (I thought Firewatch was kind of bad), but no doubt I’ll check it out eventually, especially at its “indie” price tag.

Cameron Ward
Guest
Cameron Ward

a good walking sim? i’m down. I loved Firewatch last year and to play a good one is rare

Max Whiteley
Guest
Max Whiteley

I might have to pick this up.
There has only been one walking simulater that I have ever enjoyed and that was Fire Watch. I brought it on a lie thinking it was a literal walking simulater, like an orienteering simulator (which some one should make while the genre is still hot!)
But yeah I fell for the narrative charms a walking simulator can present so if this is the best of the bunch I might have to partake.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

For lack of a better word; Sooooooooold!!!

Andraste
Guest
Andraste

It puts me off when reviewers and writers make veiled criticisms towards other writers/reviewers like you’ve done here. Why not come out and say what you mean, and who and what you’re referring to, rather than cravenly dance around the issue? Or just don’t say anything at all. As it is, it seems like you want to bitch about other reviewers and reviews for other games but don’t actually want to name them. Just about all opinions of something as subjective as art and emotional experiences are valid. You can’t possibly know how and why other reviewers reacted emotionally to… Read more »

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000

But the question remains: WHAT remains of Edith Finch?

goombacrusher
Guest
goombacrusher

Seriously Jim, you should play Hollow Knight. You’ll love it. In a really great gaming season it’s still managed to stand out in a big way.

Hunter Zolomon
Guest
Hunter Zolomon

I love these types of games so i was getting this anyway.

narcissistic.claptrap
Guest

Agreed, I adored this game. It lingers for days after playing, as well. I also think it’s the perfect length: long enough for immersion, but short enough to pack a powerful punch.

James LaValle
Guest
James LaValle

You think this might another game of the year contender? Because if you plan on sorting them by genre, I have a feeling this one would make the cut!

Jordan Doyle
Guest
Jordan Doyle

I loved Firewatch, so I’m glad to hear that this one is good. Maybe I’ll grab it when it goes down in price a little.

IkeTheChungus
Guest
IkeTheChungus

So that settles it, way better than BotW…….. Any takers?

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

Jim, have been you playing other walking simulators without making reviews out of them?

JackieGoOutside
Guest

I’ve never heard of this but I do like walking sims with pretty cool stories and this sounds pretty good.

Mandrake42
Guest
Mandrake42

I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like it until Molly opened the window. From that moment on I was gripped and the story constantly surprised me in it’s presentation.

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

There should be a ‘walking sim’ set in Silent Hill. They’re all super creepy looking games anyway, just go whole hog.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I’m glad that you reviewed the game, Jim! I’ve been doing a playthrough on my YouTube channel, and I am absolutely loving it. Although, I will admit that I cried like a baby at the end. The game is beautiful, and it is currently GOTY in my book.

Chris Nicholas
Guest
Chris Nicholas

Definitely have to look into this one. I was fan of the Unfinished Swan and I’ve always been on the fence about interactive lookynotouchypoos but this one has my attention! Great review as always JFSS!

Xirbtt
Guest
Xirbtt

Definitely not my type of game.
I got Gone Home when people made a big deal about that and found it’s predictable story, cobbled together assets that disjoint the visuals more than unite them, and the overall gameplay experience to be very lacking.

Not going to fall for it again with this. “Walking sims” ain’t my jam but I’m glad some people seem to like it, maybe I’ll try it when it’s down to a buck or two on a steam sale! That sounds like a reasonable price to me.

InfamousDS
Guest
InfamousDS

I like weird and interesting. May have to find a way to buy this.

CyanManta
Guest
CyanManta

I’ve been waiting to find out more about this game since Jesse Cox brought it up on Co-Optional weeks ago. I think I ought to spend some time with it.

Although, judging by his tone early in the review, I doubt Jim has played Night in the Woods.

Al Pi
Guest
Al Pi

Now, we sit and wait to see how the crazies will use the score to whine about something.

Nyctelios
Guest
Nyctelios

Hmmmm, tasty!

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