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

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000

The swerve, Disqus was evil all along!

Muddy Scarecrow
Guest
Muddy Scarecrow

From what I’ve seen of the Jimpressions and the trailers on Steam those gameplay segments look like they could have gotten super pretentious or annoying in a Dragon Cancer way. I’m still not even entirely sure they work after seeing Molly’s story but the over all concept of going into abandoned rooms and seeing different stories come out of them is amazingly cool and I’m on board for that. I’ll be waiting to play it on PS4 tho. My Laptop has the graphical capabilities of a bridge made of Kleenex and blind hope.

Enuo
Guest
Enuo

You could have said ‘Welcome to the House of Fun’ and still get in your Madness reference.

Jim Sterling
Guest

Apologies for the adverts. Disqus suddenly added them and is now charging to have them removed. We’re going to migrate the comments to a new system because, as much as I sympathize with a web service providing free resources, I do not appreciate such an awful sales tactic and strongarm attempt.

Please excuse the ads as we work on this. I’m incredibly sorry.

soundog
Guest
soundog

Never experienced ads on a disqus board ever… How bizarre!! Must be a fair few sites that pay for the lack of them

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000

These type of low impact adventure games aren’t typically my thing, but this sounds fun enough for a lazy afternoon sometime when I’m between game playthroughs.

Unrelated, fuck you Disqus. Strong-arming ads and charging people to not have ad-content is a shit deal. Place is now saturated in them, how is that a pleasant or well thought out marketing strategy? Jim just did his second Jimquisition in a row slagging off shady marketing practices. Disqus, are you trying to make it a trilogy?

Guess I’m going to be running ad-block till this gets sorted.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

I should’ve typed this way earlier when posting was still relevant and not drowned in adds for celebrity news and smug orange toadfaces. Nonetheless, am bored and lonely enough to try clawing back anyway.
You had another Madness song that would’ve worked, kinda…welcome to the house of fun? Now I’ve come of age? Welcome to the lions den? Temptation is on his way? Welcome to the…ok I’ll shut up now.

qorl123
Guest
qorl123

Uh…why am I seeing a ton of ads? Is disqus doing this?

Benj
Guest
Benj

Erm is anyone else starting to see sponsored links on this site?

Zigguarot
Guest
Zigguarot

So I guess were not getting a Toukiden 2 and Dragon Quest Heroes 2 review huh?

sweetbabyroy
Guest
sweetbabyroy

I wouldn’t say this game is bad without playing it, I just don’t think it’s for me. I’d prefer a meaty puzzle-athon to go along with my interactive story, like Zero Escape or something.

Lawrence Newman
Guest
Lawrence Newman

Botw 7

Short indie walking sim 9.5

Trololol

Matthew Hatfield
Guest
Matthew Hatfield

Jim, did you have a favorite story? For me it was Walter’s.

Loth A
Guest
Loth A

Ok Well i’m gonna get this one right away without getting spoiled of anything then. I’m a big fan of Ethan Carter, Gone home, and Chinese room games. I very much agree that they have big flaws, and you pointed them out well in your videos, but all of theses stories hit me. If you praise this one so much in comparison with them, i’m excited to play it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, completely flew under my radar.

Max Waller
Guest
Max Waller

so is this a walking sim or there’s actual gameplay?

Super Biz!
Guest

Hmm…. 😀 from the theme for the game on PS4 I didn’t realize it was this deep and subtle. damnit, I don’t have time >.< let's hope it goes on sale/I find time to play it. I do everything backwards X3

Ces
Guest
Ces

As someone who was disappointed with the ‘nope, nothing actually that weird going on here’ endings to Gone Home and Firewatch after their atmospheric build up, this is exactly what I wanted out of a “walking sim” (although this one had more interactivity and variation to controls than most walking sims). It was like a weird and wonderful breath of fresh air and I loved it. Definitely agree with the score, especially if you are judging it as an example of the genre.

EvolutionKills
Guest
EvolutionKills

Still, that score is going to make so many immature people so fucking salty.

As in, I’m going to need to make a dump truck sized batch of popcorn to handle all that salt.

One might even call it, dare I say, GLORIOUS!?

The Interloper
Guest
The Interloper

At this rate the Jimquisition awards this year may have to be 10 games rather than the typical 5.

Leah
Guest
Leah

Two notes:

The fish story alone raised this game from a 7 to an 8 for me.

Also, there are an unusually high number of American flags in this house. Also, loads of books with the same names.

Tubey84
Guest
Tubey84

Not my type of game, but whatever. As long as people aren’t faked into buying something that it isn’t – they know what it is going in and not a ‘traditional’ gaming experience – then fine.

But I still really, really think these things should be classified a different way to games. The description of this is perfect – a ‘narrative adventure’ – they should be sold as such in a different library away from traditional gaming media so as to avoid confusion.

Davorbasic
Guest
Davorbasic

And you gave zelda a 7 while this gets a 9.5/s

Isaac Berry
Guest
Isaac Berry

Man, the end of the year is going to be real interesting to see what you do for your “best of” list since you’re giving so many 9-10s recently and it’s barely May!

Sounds like an interesting game, but I habe such a backlog I don’t know if I’ll get to it.

George
Guest
George

I liked Firewatch enough but to me it wasn’t really a “walking simulator,” it was more of a “point and click adventure.” Since there was some puzzle elements and objectives that you had to complete. I don’t really know if “Interactive Dramas” are a genre for me though…

As a reviewer you are always able to give every game, regardless of its genre, a fair shake. This makes you far more, “objective” and trustworthy than most of the other critics out there.

I’m glad you liked this game Jim.

Decentsauce
Guest
Decentsauce

Can’t wait to play it. 🙂 The Unfinished Swan is one of my favorite games so I’m glad to hear their new game is good.