“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” – Emily Brontë
Arise: A Simple Story is an emotional puzzle-platformer in which players traverse past memories, solve puzzles and manipulate time in order to change their surroundings. It is a story of happiness and hardship and is sure to pull on the heartstrings!
Developer: Piccolo Studio
Released: 3rd December 2020
Price: £15.74 – £17.99
Engine: Unreal Engine
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Arise: A Simple Story begins at the protagonist’s funeral. As his fire is lit he and the player are transported to another world in which he arises and must traverse the eclectic landscape of his past. It is an emotional tale with lots of ups and downs, emphasised by the seemingly physically strong protagonist’s increasing and obvious vulnerability to the environments and the memories he is reliving.
This tragic love story is delivered immersively through the gameplay and the visual storytelling with no narration, dialogue or text creating a universal experience and meaning. The difficulty of the gameplay evolves with the narrative, with harder-hitting story aspects being accompanied by more intense, high-pressure mechanics and more hostile environments.
Arise: A Simple Story is a narrative-focused puzzle-platformer with a bit of a twist. Its time manipulation mechanic allows players to alter their surroundings in order to create a safe path to the next area or platform. This manifests in a variety of ways, all befitting of the narrative elements being represented in any given section. For example, in one area it is used to alter the position of flower heads to jump on, somewhere else it affects the tides and in another it can be used to control lighting flashes that remove enemies that are vulnerable to light, allowing the player to pass without being attacked. This level of variety adds uniqueness to the mechanic and helps keep it fresh throughout the gameplay. There are also collectable memory images to find dotted around, these can easily be missed but are not instrumental to understanding the story.
The game varies from jolly summer scenes to harsh winters and forest fires, the overall atmosphere can be uplifting, mystical and even creepy, but always reflects the storyline and the gameplay with all elements blending together harmoniously. The movement in-game is also very tactile with the struggle to trudge through deep snow being felt by the player, similarly, they will slide across the ice and jump further went they are in space! Overall, the game is not too challenging though the difficulty level varies as it reflects the narrative and there are a few slightly tricky sections. However, death is very unpunished as players will simply be return to the closest safe spot and can try again almost instantly.
The game’s visuals feature soft, 3D artwork, a range of evocative colour palettes and atmospheric lighting. The various environments are diverse and beautiful and are wonderfully reflective of the narrative throughout. The collectable memory images have a more dreamlike hand-drawn style, almost like wax crayon style and watercolour.
The music is one of the highlights of Arise: A Simple Story, it features gentle piano, ethereal vocals, dramatic strings and jovial woodwind amongst other things combined to make a varied soundtrack that ranges from tension building to uplifting and emotive. The sound effects are also very immersive, with realistic and well-implemented ambient noises such as water rushing, fires roaring or the trees blowing in the wind.
Arise: A Simple Story is a perfect example of different game elements working in tandem together to create something tangibly emotive and beautiful. The gameplay is varied and satisfying, the audio and visual elements are simply stunning and the story is a moving tale that will resonate with a lot of people. The game is utterly heartwrenching at times but it is ultimately an uplifting and satisfying experience and one that I highly recommend!
For more emotive platformers take a look at these reviews:
GRIS – An Emotional Spin on the Platformer Genre – Inked: A Tale of Love – A Beautiful Hand-Drawn Adventure! – Letters: A Written Adventure – A New Word Puzzle about Friendship!