After the death of her mother leaves her the last living member of her family, Edith Finch returns to her childhood home. Within her home she finds sealed doors and secret passages. Exploration of the house acts as a frame story for smaller narratives about each member of her family. These stories reflect their owner’s personalities, with different storytelling methods and interactive elements. Each also illustrates their untimely deaths.
What Remains of Edith Finch opens with the player holding a journal in a first-person perspective. The character you inhabit has a cast on their right arm and flowers to their side. The journal has the name “Edith Finch” scrawled on the cover. To begin the game, you must first push the shoulder button to have your character place their hand under the cover, then move the right analog stick to move their hand. Once the cover is fully opened and we see the text, the narration begins.
In most games that sequence would be conducted with a single button press. WRoEF takes these moments and makes the player apart of them trough interaction. This is further emphasized in the story vignettes. The most memorable for me was Calvin’s scene. He sits on a swing, the analog sticks controlling each leg. To advance the story you must move the sticks like your legs while swinging. Something as small as moving the sticks, along with the motion of the camera, created a real sense of presence. I was in that swing.
Not every story vignette is as immersive. While most will change perspective to the subject, a couple stay within Edith’s. Some examples of these are the view-master and the flipbook. Each of those requiring you to mimic the motions to utilize them with the controller. The more memorable ones to me are the ones that shift perspectives. One of the standouts is Barbara’s. Her story is told in a comic book style, shifting from panel to panel. Some panels are from her first-person perspective and she comes under your control for a moment. Of the story vignettes my favorite is Lewis’s. It appears towards the end of the game, but I’m going to avoid any details to prevent spoiling the experience.
While the individualized stories are the marquee feature of the game, exploration of the house isn’t to be undersold. The house is densely packed with lots of little details: books (with titles), photographs and furniture Each character’s story is kept in their bedroom. From here we can see things like their clothes, uniforms, and hobbies. This was my favorite aspect of the game, moving around at my own pace and just checking things out. While the stories tell us how the character’s died, exploring the house tells us how they lived.
WRoEF is a very short, linear game, with no challenge, and very little interactivity. It isn’t “fun” in the traditional sense of games. It is a unique experience that can only be conveyed through games. It creates a very beautiful world and guides you through it. It tells very emotional and memorable stories by putting you into its character’s shoes. For these reasons, I think it’s worth checking out.