Back 2 Backlog: Virginia, Edith Finch, Waku Waku 7

Back 2 Backlog is our new, irregular-in-several-senses feature where we put three mini-reviews on one page; reviews of games released over the last year or so that we didn’t cover at the time, but that we now have an urge to say something about.

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbone, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Variable State
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://505games.com/games/virginia
  • Game code purchased by reviewer

Virginia is often compared to Twin Peaks, which the developers must be thrilled about. Everything about the game, from the marketing and the menus to the ‘cinematic’ black screen borders and the severely restricted player movement, makes it clear that this is aiming to get as close as is reasonably possible to being an interactive movie. It succeeds… but is it a good movie?

The team has taken the extremely brave step of telling a complex story without a single word of dialogue. No speech, no subtitles; just people and events to observe, objects to interact with, and the very occasional document to read. The initial premise is that you play one FBI agent conducting an internal investigation on another, while simultaneously working on a missing persons case with her. It’s a great setup, but one which very quickly loses its way.

This is a difficult game to review. Not because it’s hard to put a description or our feelings into words, but because it’s so story-heavy that straying into spoiler territory is all too easy. The fact that it’s only about two hours long further frustrates the issue, as any spoiler automatically constitutes a significant percentage of the experience. But then, that’s the central problem; it’s easy to argue that there’s not very much story to spoil in the first place.

Once the ostensible plot has been established, everything melts into a hotchpotch of dreams, hallucinations, and symbolism. There’s plenty to chew over… too much, in fact. The symbolism is laid on so thick that it’s quite easy to attribute any interpretation you desire to the whole thing, rendering the ‘true’ sequence of events redundant. Although an interesting project with some great ideas, Virginia ends up being too clever for its own good.

 

 

 

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbone, PC, Mac
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Giant Sparrow
  • Developer: Giant Sparrow
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.giantsparrow.com/games/finch/
  • Game code purchased by reviewer

The best way we can think of describing this is as an interactive short story collection – and we mean that as an enormous compliment. Each story is unique but connected, beautifully crafted and utterly memorable. Crucially, each displays masterful storytelling without forgetting the fact that this is a game, not a movie.

Either through some sort of curse or just the worst luck imaginable, the Finch family has experienced tragedy through the generations. You travel to the abandoned family home as a Finch youngling, exploring the building and its eerily lived-in appearance. Each room you gain access to contains an object that will, on investigation, trigger a new tale. With gameplay as unique as the family member and their story, each is an unpredictable wonder.

We refuse to ruin any of the surprises for you. Know only that this is a game that you need to play. It deals frankly and intelligently with death, guilt, loss, mental health, and even the boundless imagination of a child that we can never entirely recapture as adults. Fantasy is interwoven with stark reality in such a manner that it’s impossible to imagine the story being told any other way.

If you’ve yet to play this – and we urge you to do so in the strongest possible terms – it’s quite likely that, like us, you’ll play through in one sitting. Fairly short, bittersweet, and softly addictive; it’s mesmerising from start to finish, each moment a wonder. The only criticism that we can dig up, and one that we offer reluctantly, is that it did not quite manage to wrench tears from our cold and cynical eyes at the moments it wanted to. That doesn’t for a second take away from the fact that this is a magical game everybody ought to play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Switch is still missing a proper Virtual Console (come on, Nintendo!), but it still has a fair amount of (admittedly, usually quite obscure) retro games on the eShop. Most were previously Neo Geo exclusives or, as with Waku Waku 7, at least had a Neo Geo version.

WW7 is now over 20 years old, and it’s very much a game of its time. A cartoony 1v1 2D beat ‘em up, the graphics have lost none of their charm over the years despite being predictably pixelated. It doesn’t take itself seriously either, which means that the game as a whole has aged better than most. Each character is a parody of some sort, with targets including Totoro, Dominion Tank Police, and Indiana Jones. Animation, attacks, and post-fight taunts have all been designed in a similar vein.

The actual fighting is well-designed. There are a few cheap moves in there, sadly, but overall it allows for depth without being intimidating. The most interesting mechanic is the “Harahara” moveset. Each character has one move that’s neon signposted, slow to charge, and easily interrupted. Pick your moment correctly however, and you’ll unleash a super-powerful move that can’t be blocked and is incredibly difficult to dodge; and, of course, that deals a huge amount of damage.

It’s fun to play, and the port is great; both English and Japanese versions are included, along with impressively customisable display options and the ability to add as many credits as you like whenever you like. There are only seven playable characters, sadly, with no update to fully unlock the two bonus ones. There’s also been no update to include online play, which WW7 would’ve been suited to so well. If you’re happy to play alone or locally, though, it’s more than just a curio from the past.

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value.

He doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

3 comments

  1. Kate Yap /

    Edith Finch was fun and interesting, I just hoped there was more closure to the story than what they had offered, I was really eager to know what was the mystery that surrounded the family and in the end I never found out.

    • Luke K /

      I know what you mean; it was purposefully left open to interpretation. If you have a look on the interwebs, though, there’s plenty of discussion about what was left unshown!

      • Kate Yap /

        I don’t really like open endings that much, despite my love for theories.

        I always have this nagging feeling that I need and must know what the canon story is, as the developer intended it, otherwise I just feel this constant scratching in my brain that I will never truly know.

        AFAIK, it’s connected to another game “The Unfinished Swan,” I am probably gonna play it to get a clearer sense of some parts of the story.

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