game thoughts: What Remains of Edith Finch (2017)

I think I put What Remains of Edith Finch on my wishlist based entirely on the eerie product image on Steam. I couldn’t quite make out what it was, but the shadowy shape looked like a body, either standing tall or perhaps tied to a stake. It wasn’t until I started playing the game, I realized it was a house:

The Finch Family home

The house feels like something between the Winchester Mystery House in California and The House on the Rock in Wisconsin. As you approach it after wandering through a path in the woods, it quickly towers over you. The lawn is a mix of mundane equipment and strange creations.

The game is not quite a “walking simulator” but it is very close, as you navigate the house and uncover the family secrets. The Finch family appears to be cursed to live short lives, except for great-grandmother Edie. But so many of her children and grandchildren have passed away under strange circumstances. Without giving anything away, you explore the house, finding your way into the sealed rooms, doors that were locked and glued shut to keep anyone from learning the true story of the fate of the relatives. As each room is explored, a shrine is discovered and you flash back to the final day in the life of that person and you live their final moments.

Needless to say, this game should probably come with a content/trigger warning for death, most accidental, all tragic. There were two especially that were very hard to play through. The death sequences are all very surreal and just strange enough that at first you wonder if the house is haunted or some other malevolent force is at work…but soon realize that it all might just be bad luck or, sadly, mental health problems.

The game itself is beautiful. I love the design of how the text floats in front of you rather than just subtitles along the bottom of the screen, guiding your eye around the room to find things hidden in plain site. The narrator’s voice is soothing and at once mature and childlike as she comes to terms with her family’s past.

It took me a little over two hours to finish the game and most of the achievements are for some random tasks that you can do in game, but nothing that changes the story so I believe I got the full experience. After you complete the story, you unlock a “replay a story” mode that lets you go back to each person and replay their section…I don’t know why you would want to do this except to unlock the achievements. It is not a game about high replayability, just about telling the story of a family.

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