The world inside What Remains of Edith Finch is decidedly focused in a geometric, real sense. On paper, there’s not much more to this experience than walking through a house and absorbing information. That’s all you, as Edith herself, are there to do is learning about your eccentric family.
However linear on paper, What Remains of Edith Finch is an interactive switchboard of ideas that magnificently captures how family trees grow and evolve, or lack thereof.
Edith has come back to her asymmetrical childhood home and is set about by the ridiculous and mundane as she travels down that family tree. The house itself is a star. I’m not sure if anyone exists that hasn’t pictured something of its ilk with narrow passageways resting behind secret doors and levers. That doesn’t totally diminish the outward disarray as more family members meant more rooms basically stapled to the tops and sides, but the way everything crafts together feels fluid and wondrous.
I’ll not do this often but it’s time for a personal story and light spoilers for the game. If you don’t want either, skip on down past the next image.
Growing up, I was a solitary child for a couple of reasons from both the nature and nurture categories. My mind took on the role of my best friend, my harbinger of adventure, and my distraction from reality. There was no resistance swimming that stream. I never had to ask permission to enter my world or weed out who should and shouldn’t be in my life with the characters in my head. The brainpower I had to work with made me a genius and the worlds I created made me feel like a god.
One scene in What Remains of Edith Finch challenges you with doing two things at once: imagining an unfurled mental world and a mundane task in reality. You have to control two avatars at once using both sticks at the same time and because of my early life choices, it felt comfortably familiar slipping into an old mindset.
I could do both with my eyes closed. I learned early how to and had years of practice in watching the real world turn grey while my own world beckoned more and more.
Coming back to this touchstone of reality took the equivalent of going “cold turkey”, which shockingly didn’t hurt. That memory is the most recent moment of pure confusion I can remember, the juxtaposition that something that mattered so very much to me at the time could be left behind without a single scar.
As I took to that same situation in What Remains of Edith Finch, working towards a different crescendo, the presentation is both fascinating and apt. A consistency throughout the game is an undeterred bravery of imagination no matter which direction the family member’s representation takes. You will have the chance to feel as god over a realm, to feel as a casual photographer, or to just feel as a curious daughter. The key is that you will feel through these approaches.
Interaction takes many simple forms that boil down to movement and the shoulder buttons. Because of the imagined overlays though, you’ll almost never feel that you have a barrier between you and the action on screen. The text from Edith and others will appear in the environment as you walk, serving as post signs surely but a creatively enhanced version at least.
What works within What Remains of Edith Finch is not all encompassing, mostly due to a few very large plot questions. Edith harps on leaving the house for a large reason that is never given the weight it deserves when the explanation does come around. That impact suffers as a result, leaving the player hanging on the oomph promised by the buildup. Another inclusion walks dangerously between the line of unfulfilling narrative choice and a cute nod. I’m not going to spoil the connection nor context (never two spoilers in the same post, my mom used to always say). Given how selective and careful Giant Sparrow was with the writing and reveals, it stands out as too close to the main attraction of the entire experience as opposed to a side-story find.
Though compact, there is no more a creative exploration of family and the double-edged sword of tragedy and comedy. What Remains of Edith Finch asserts boldly and smartly that you can’t make a stained glass window without shattered mirrors. To me, one who has beheld the beauty from both sides, the journey was undeniably worth the damage.
What Remains of Edith Finch Score: