What Remains of Edith Finch
PC, PlayStation 4
There’s a running theme here in ye olde Gamer’s Notebook, one that tends to sway toward the spooky. Maybe it’s the result of growing up in a household that favored Twin Peaks and The X-Files and encouraged cult-horror film screenings over the latest Disney release. Or maybe it’s because so often in modern gaming, atmosphere takes a back seat to “Do the Dew”-style action. And so, I have fallen in love with What Remains of Edith Finch.
From developer Giant Sparrow comes Finch, a study in curses via a multigenerational story following the lives of the Finch family and how, eventually, they all succumbed to the same fate. As the player, you take control of a narrative that guides you through a cavernous home and through the lives of individual family members in various periods of time.
Your narrator, Edith, is the most current iteration of the Finch family. She guides you through the home and through a series of secret passages that lead into locked rooms and, of course, further secrets. The skeletons in the closet of the Finch family are explored; and as you live out the final moments of each Finch, you become fully engulfed in the story and setting. This is truly a sight to behold.
The game is short and can be completed in about two hours, but the variety more than makes up for it. With each new family member comes a new, challenging game-play experience. For instance, at one point, you become a family pet in a dreamlike sequence that can be a bit jarring until, naturally, you become one with the animal.
Any other game would be faulted for being more akin to a museum than, well, a game — but not Finch. Exploring the Finch home is like being a ghost yourself, unable to touch or interact with most objects, but not feeling the need to. This is a lived-in environment, one that has been affected by the lives of the family; as the story progresses, the little details pop out and, personally, I couldn’t imagine even disturbing the dust on the shelf, as one might leave the belongings of a lost loved one untouched.
For all the talk of death, Finch is beaming with life. This is the same brand of magical realism that Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami write of — reality seen through the lens of altered perception, seeking a definition, full of subtle whimsy.
Take that as a hint that Finch is a “walking simulator.” It’s not going to be for everyone. There are puzzles, but they are few and far between. Fans of the classic Myst series will thoroughly enjoy the trek, but may clamor for more “to do.” Put on your walking shoes and take a seat on the couch with all of this in mind and be prepared for the journey ahead.
Chris O’Neal is a ghost wandering the vast landscape of anime. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.