Thursday, 13 December 2018 16:34

Iris.Fall Review

Written by

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Iris.Fall, developed and published by NEXT Studios, is among the most visually-striking games I have ever played. This story-driven puzzle adventure follows the story of a young girl who wakes in the midst of night and is led on a nightmarish adventure to uncover her past. What is so interesting about Iris.Fall is not what it does with what it has, but how well it does with so little. The entirety of the story is told without a single written or spoken word and the art manages to be vibrant with rarely a splash of color.


Iris.Fall focuses nearly entirely on puzzles and presentation, most of which it executes quite well. Bathed in high-contrast backs and whites, a fantastic job is done of making use of shadow mechanics, and making everything look good in general. The puzzles manage to be interesting from the very beginning. The introduction of mechanics are shown via short cinematics that drive your progression through the story. Not once during my time playing was a tutorial shown with explicit instructions — rather, a quick show of the intended action by the support character (an adorable black cat) left me to experiment. That really seems to be the core of the game itself: experimentation.

The puzzles tell you neither the goal nor mechanics, forcing you to figure it out for yourself. While sometimes you are given clues as to the final appearance or goal of the puzzle, the game never holds your hand and is all the better for it. There are a few sections near Iris.Fall’s end that are a bit more obtuse in their mechanics, but they manage to be more satisfying than frustrating to overcome. My only real complaints on the subject are that the puzzles aren’t of a consistent quality. The puzzles vary from picture matching to Rubik's Cubes to perspective shadow tricks, but some just aren’t as strong as others. In particular, there was a shadow-bridge puzzle about halfway through that felt more as if I solved it by trial and error rather than a true understanding of the mechanics. In contrast, there were a few that left me in awe of their creativity and presentation, making me wish for more when the section had passed.


What I found a bit strange were the controls. The game takes place in a fully-3D environment with frequent 2D shadow sections, treading the line between being a walking simulator and a point-and-click adventure, yet moving in the environment requires using the classic WASD keys despite there being a fixed camera angle, which makes for a few awkward sections (especially when the camera moves without player input). Though you aren’t in any danger of falling off any part of the world, it’s a strange conjunction when all other actions are performed with a cursor. There are the classic click-and-drag moments with items from your satchel that feel quite natural, but pressing an icon over the character’s head, as opposed to an interaction key, never stops feeling weird. This, paired with the fact that interaction-detection areas can be very small, means that quite a bit of your time solving puzzles will be spent lining your character up in such a way that will allow you to interact with the given space.


Iris.Fall doesn’t overstay its welcome. Each of the puzzles is presented, solved, and pushed aside as you blaze your way through the dilapidated scenery. The occasional animatic or in-engine scene adds more to the story and pace, but never dwells on any one area or puzzle for too long (save for one near the end that repeats three times). That’s great, however, Iris.Fall ends up being a rather short experience. My first playthrough, with all the learning, tinkering, and failures involved, only took me a little over two hours to complete. While it was an enjoyable two hours at that, I can’t say that it’s worth the price tag. If you are a puzzle junkie with an appreciation for games as art with an interesting (and interestingly-told) story, then you’re likely going to love Iris.Fall.


The Verdict: Good

For fans of the puzzle genre this is a no-brainer. With gorgeous artwork, a mysterious story, and a rich atmosphere, Iris.Fall entertains for its length, but due to the brevity of content I would recommend holding off if you’re on the fence about it. This would be worth it for the art alone on sale, however.

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Coal Fire

CoalFire is an enthusiastic gamer who has spent the last few years digging for the hidden gems of indie gaming. A scientist by education, he breaks down the components of games sorting out what works, what doesn't and how it all works to create a cohesive experience. When he's not analyzing them, he's still playing.


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