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Published 23.08.2021 00:00
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What Remains of Edith Finch review

The folks at Annapurna Interactive really know how to bring games to mobile. Whether it's experiences that feel designed around touch devices from the jump like Florence and Gorogoa, or porting classics like Journey and Gone Home to smaller screens, it's clear that they take a real care in having their game library full of beautiful and expressive titles that work as well as they possibly can for on-the-go play. This is no different for What Remains of Edith Finch, the publisher's latest release, which is an immaculate port of a game almost solely comprised of creatively contrived stumbling blocks that tell you a singular story.

House hunting

What Remains of Edith Finch is a game where you wander through a house in first-person. This house is no ordinary place, though. In addition to being completely abandoned, it was once home to an eccentric family that filled it with strange secret passages, sealed doors, peepholes, and more.

You play as Edith Finch, the last remaining person from the family who is still alive. As you wander, you encounter each family member's belongings and mementos, some of which trigger visions and interpretations of how the family member lived, and ultimately died.

Immaculate architecture

If you didn't know What Remains of Edith Finch originally released on consoles and PCs back in 2017, you would not necessarily be able to tell by playing the iOS version. This port has everything you'd expect from a top-tier App Store release, including a control scheme that is more swipe-based to ease first-person maneuverability using touch. It also has iCloud save features so you can play between devices, and controller support if you want to play the game as it was originally designed.

On top of this, the iOS version of What Remains of Edith Finch looks incredible. Without comparison shots to the original release, there's nothing about the game's presentation that would lead you to believe it doesn't look the way it was originally intended to look. It also helps that What Remains of Edith Finch has really tremendous art direction, including the overall design of the house itself, the way narrated text appears in the environment, and the way you transition between house wandering and the familial vignettes.

Constructed chronicles

It is very clear that the development team on What Remains of Edith Finch wants you to see just how detailed-oriented and directed the experience is. Despite giving you access to a huge estate, the game proceeds in a linear fashion, thanks to some familial quirks around door-sealing and other secrets. All of this is extremely clever and creative, especially since there are narrative justifications for all of these restrictions.

Where these tricks made it easy for me to appreciate the experience from a game design and creativity perspective, though, these same things made it tough to connect with the emotional aspects of the narrative. As often as I was dazzled or impressed by the engineering of a certain passageway or the format for a particular family member's passing, almost all of these things failed to build up any particular empathy or understanding of the Finches themselves. This is to say there are many, many beautiful aspects of What Remains of Edith Finch and the way it chooses to tell its story, but all of them feel forced together in a way that is impressive, but ultimately overwrought.

The bottom line

What Remains of Edith Finch is an undeniably beautiful game, and the mobile version has everything you could hope for in a quality App Store release. That said, the beauty on display here is impressive mostly in how well its disparate pieces get forced together into a structured experience, which can make it hard to connect with on a deeper level.

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