After being told by Graydon that it would be a good game to play, I gave What Remains of Edith Finch a shot. If you remember my Life is Strange spiel get ready for another one on Edith Finch.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a game about death. While the stories can be outlandish at points, they are nonetheless poignant and effective means of storytelling. The game takes place off the coast of Washington state on Orcas Island. There is a tale within the game of a family tragedy that gives you context for what is going on with the Finch family. When it comes to giving the player the message that the Finch family is “cursed”, the general reaction by each family member as time goes on clearly gives you said reaction.
You primarily play as Edith Finch as the title implies, who is possibly the sole remaining Finch. She is returning to her old home and to finally learn the stories her grandmother wanted to tell her. However, you do play as every family member before their untimely deaths. The way the narrations are delivered in-game is unlike anything I had ever seen before. Add in the terrific job done by Valerie Rose Lohman as Edith Finch, the eerie feeling of being in a house where all the rooms have been sealed, and some amazing methods of storytelling and you have a great piece of interactive entertainment.
The house in and of itself is a character in the game. It showcases each story to some extent and throughout the house are a series of hidden passageways that get you from room to room, story to story. Each story has something to interact with to trigger the story. With Molly, it is her diary and with Barbara, it is a comic book. The stories range from an insatiable hunger which leads to taking the form of different animals, to a cell-shaded survival tale with the iconic theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween. These stories are a mix of the truth and some interpretation. This is clear in the story that Molly leaves as when you are with her story, Edith says “I don’t know if I believe all of that”. There is a line in the game where Edith mentions that she had no knowledge of the tales of the Finch family.
While I love the game for its narrative, it also does some things with controller manipulation that I have not seen in a while. It begins with Edith unlocking the passage in the bathroom which is done by unlocking a book called “There’s A Secret In This Bathroom” which is a pop-up book that brought an insurmountable amount of joy to my face. This could be just the feeling that you get of love in this family despite a terrible curse or the fact that pop-up books are a rarity these days. When it comes to controller manipulation I was floored by these different things you are doing with the controller such as flying a kite, opening cans, and more.
When it comes to the characters that Edith has never met due to, you know, death; she will say something like “I knew grandpa Sam had a twin, and that he never talked about him, I guess my grandpa liked history any more than my mom did”. Or she will bring up either her great-grandmother Edie or her mother who have completely different views of the family curse.
There are certain characters who are just tragedies themselves. The one that I immediately died inside as a result of was Gregory. The son of Edith’s grandfather and his first wife. I knew where things were going the minute I saw the location where Gregory’s part was located. I have played the game twice and I still do not know how to process that death. The other is Edith’s brother Lewis.
Lewis’ story is started by looking at a letter from Lewis’ psychiatrist. After getting clean from marijuana Lewis began to withdraw from the world and started living in his imagination. This started to manifest in Lewis at his job at the cannery. While you are listening to the psychiatrist’s voice over you are chopping fish and at a certain point, the monotonous action of chopping fish suddenly becomes two games in one with the controller. As you are doing your job an isometric dungeon crawler appears and you learn that this is Lewis’ imagination at work creating a world where he actually has something to live for. I won’t spoil the end but it is some insane stuff.
After you log all the stories and are finished, Edith does exactly what Molly does and gets into her bed and starts writing. Things then flashback to the final night Edith and her mother spend at the house before they moved out and young Edith starts to read Edie’s account for the night Edith was born. The tide had receded by a great distance and for the first and only time Edie was able to revisit the tragic sunken house that is referred to when learning about Odin Finch earlier in the game. Things ultimately lead to the birth of the final Finch and the death of Edith. As it turns out the character you are controlling at the beginning of the game has a cast on and is holding flowers.
When looking back on it I didn’t actually see that one coming despite the name of the game being what it was. Regardless, I was blown away and I now see this game on the same level as Life is Strange. Now that says something.