There are a lot of narrative adventure games about relationships and romance, but there aren't many that consider the idea of trying to love someone who isn't quite sure of who they are. We'll Always Have Paris examines a relationship well past its prime and what happens to a loved one with dementia in an experience that is as moving and surprising as it is brief.
We'll Always Have Paris tells the story of Simon, a retired chef living out his golden years trying to keep himself busy. One thing that occupies a lot of his time is Claire, his spouse of fifty years, who seems to experience episodes of dementia. In addition to tending to her, Simon has his social circle to keep up with and a young grandson to bond with.
Over the course of this game's one-day story, you help guide Simon through a set of errands and activities that stir up some bygone memories and tell you a little bit more about Simon and his life with Claire. Much of this narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion with you either buttoning through text prompts or performing some light environmental interactions like rubbing a foggy mirror with a towel or choosing groceries to buy as Simon's internal monologue and interactions with others drive the story forward.
Beauty in brevity
It's almost a challenge to break up We'll Always Have Paris into multiple play sessions. The game is intentionally easy to get through in a single sitting (as noted by a text box at the start of the game). Say what you will about the value proposition of games you can play through in less than an hour, but the amount development that occurs over Simon's seemingly ordinary day is perfectly paced and the primary reason the game feels cohesive and satisfying.
We'll Always Have Paris is surprisingly efficient with its dialog and exposition. Small responses to questions or items in the scenery all play their part in building a fully realized world and past around Simon, and the sparse visual style and melancholy piano soundtrack all do their part to effectively set tone and make meaningful contributions to what ends up being a pretty emotional journey.
The story in We'll Always Have Paris is its main selling point, and it's well worth the asking price. If you are looking for a game with more puzzle elements or even branching paths to explore, this is not the game for you. In fact, the worst moments in We'll Always Have Paris come whenever it tries to challenge you with environmental interactions.
This is to say it isn't always entirely clear what kinds of actions We'll Always Have Paris wants you to do. Sometimes you need to tap items, and at others you need to drag them to certain places. This kind of inconsistency without instruction can lead to moments where you're correctly identifying the objects you need to use, but can't advance because you aren't putting the right kind of touch on it. These create points where you can stall out or otherwise slow the pace of a game that is very much interested in keeping you moving through it without much downtime.
The bottom line
We'll Always Have Paris is a wonderful story and experience that is able to delight, surprise, and move you in a remarkably short period of time. It doesn't always strike the balance it needs to between storytelling and interaction, but for the most part it lets you swiftly enjoy everything it has to offer.