Quick Reviews 6

Inside: Vision Soft Rest, What Remains of Edith Finch, Dungeons of Dreadrock

Vision Soft Reset

A Metroidvania where your character is an alien who can see into the future. This manifests as diegetic save points and an ability to rewind time in combat, Braid-style. This means that though you can’t carry physical objects back in time with you, you can do so with information, and this includes the Metroidvania ability powerups, which are represented as unlock codes for your character’s Metroid-style combat suit. You are also on a 20-minute time limit before the planet explodes, so you will have to rewind and pursue multiple timelines to explore the entire area.

It’s overall very cool and I especially liked the final boss. It’s also really great at integrating upgrades with level design; there are a lot of areas that don’t strictly need a given powerup to navigate, but become much quicker and easier with later upgrades. The rewind and timeline mechanics necessarily mean you’ll be traversing the same areas many times, but by the endgame it’s such a breeze you hardly notice. I did, however, feel the game was a lot more punishing than it needed to be. The rewind functionality is extremely limited, which is balanced for combat but really overtuned for platforming. There are a lot of maneuvers that are very finnicky (especially the wall run) and require very precise inputs; not uncommon for platformers, but given the time travel gimmick I’d have appreciated more affordances to undo my mistakes. An ability to slow time to help with precision platforming, like in Celeste‘s assist mode, would have also been welcome.

It also feels as if they cut a few corners with the story. Each boss only has to be fought in one timeline and after that you can completely ignore them; I was hoping there would be some alternative scenes if you, say, encountered Grieger after killing Solaria, but everything plays out exactly the same. The only thing that even comes close is that Grieger will express surprise if you get into his lab through the back door. Not a huge loss, but it is a bit of a disappointment when Metroidvanias are normally so big on sequence breaking and fun Easter eggs.

What Remains of Edith Finch
Walking Simulator

A walking sim about Edith Finch, the last surviving member of a family who supposedly suffers a curse of misfortune. After her mother’s death, she returns to the family home with a secret key to investigate the house’s secrets, and discovers a number of diaries and records from the family recounting the circumstances of each of their untimely deaths.

I think this is an odd example of a walking simulator where the gameplay surpasses the story. Each vignette features some kind of gimmick you must engage with to progress; it’s never anything terribly complex, but it’s enough to make each story feel unique, and in many cases helps you get into the mindset of the subject. In fact, it was a game design video discussing Lewis’ vignette that convinced me to try the game in the first place. Unfortunately, the story itself is just yet another waffling “Maybe the supernatural is real, maybe it isn’t, who knows, anyway it doesn’t actually matter” narrative. It doesn’t have anything non-trivial to say.

Dungeons of Dreadrock

This was good overall, but more than a little janky. The control scheme of moving into things to interact with them was clunky, and there were a lot of puzzles that relied on timing and action mechanics, which was a bit frustrating. (It would have also been really nice to be able to select items in your inventory instead of needing to chuck everything in sequence.)

Its biggest feature, which I’m very ambivalent on, is a huge reliance on set pieces, with many puzzles using either one-off mechanics or having existing elements behave atypically. This can be very exciting and fun in how frequently it mixes things up, but it’s also pretty antithetical to the nature of a puzzle game to have the mechanics change on a dime. I felt this was tempered by most of the set pieces making logical sense — a goblin steals your items instead of attacking you, a dogged enemy chases you across floors, etc. — but there were definitely a few (particularly in the very last puzzle) that felt completely unfair and out of left field. In particular, I was annoyed by how arbitrary your ability to revisit past floors was — you can only do it when you have to, which on the one hand prevents players from wandering aimlessly but on the other hand it basically spoils the puzzle when you can do it, and creates a big “I didn’t know I could do that” moment the first time it happens. It also makes no in-universe sense that the PC just magically knows whether revisiting a floor is pointless or not. But despite its flaws, I did find it enjoyable, and it was genuinely fun to solve some puzzles by breaking out of the rigid game logic and just doing what made sense.

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