Games are a constantly evolving medium. This evolution has contributed to not just more visually-appealing titles, but ones that tell better stories. With these stronger narrative abilities, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a variety of creative and often touching games. One of these pieces was The Unfinished Swan, a unique iteration of a passive narrative-driven game. The environment of Giant Sparrow’s first game is one that’s without form. In order to consume the interactive storybook, I was required to toss paint on an invisible environment to find my way through its themes of artistry and death. Now, after playing their follow-up, What Remains of Edith Finch, it’s become apparent that the BAFTA-award winning title was just Giant Sparrow’s stepping stone to a fully realized project — one that explores even more facets of the human experience.
What Remains of Edith Finch took me around three hours to experience. I took on the role of a girl, Edith, as she explores her family’s towering estate in the Pacific Northwest. The Finches are notoriously eccentric. However, they also succumb to a grim curse, in which only one member of each familial generation survives.
While directing Edith through the various family members’ homes, I recounted the various fantastical lives (and heartwrenching deaths) of her family in a series of vignettes. These shorts were distinct both in their gameplay and style, including facets of magical realism to portray a character’s unique personality and view of the world. Each however, has boundless whimsical creativity throughout their solemn tales. It shares much of the same tender spirit as The Unfinished Swan.
An exploration into loss, family, and human life as a whole
The soundtrack only enhances this effort to use magical realism to tell this collection of stories. As the Finches monologue over the different situations that led to their deaths, soothing instrumental music accompanies the various moods. When emotional pay-offs occur, appropriately-matching pieces contribute to their overall effectiveness. There’s also one particular section which surprisingly uses a licensed track to its benefit. Among these various facets, though, the writing of What Remains of Edith Finch stands as its strongest ingredient. It makes this title both an appealing video game and an exploration into loss, family, and human life as a whole.
I personally measure how “great” any story is by the strength of its heart. The Finch family is full of earnest people that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Their insights and lives aren’t priceless to me just from the exposition they doled out. I also learned about their lives from the rich subtext that comes in the form of environmental storytelling. The chaotically-dense Finch Family Estate has a distinctive atmosphere that represents each one of them. These environments appear just as dazzling on the Switch, with priorities imposed on the readability of text alongside the ability to distinctly identify objects. As I explored what remained after each family member’s death, I found just as much perspective as I had received from their individual anecdotes. It provides replayability among its intricately constructed set pieces, as there are endless details to discover.
The remains of something truly special
I can’t recommend What Remains of Edith Finch enough if anyone has yet to play it. With so many incredible games that are currently coming to Switch, it’s important to support the special titles coming from publisher Annapurna Interactive. Its explorations of loss and tragedy left me emotional on numerous occasions, yet it also holds an uplifting and edifying emotional core. This experience remains undiminished thanks to a comprehensive port that doesn’t make any drastic sacrifices to the performance and visuals. As far as I’m concerned, it’s required reading for those passionate about storytelling in video games.