There follows spoilers for ‘What Remains Of Edith Finch’.
I didn’t really want ‘What Remains Of Edith Finch’ to be done as quickly as I got through it. I downloaded, started, played and indeed finished the game in one evening but I do not suggest this as a negative point. Every section of the game has a brilliant mechanic or gameplay idea hiding inside. Far more important however is how much some of them work well with the stories of the characters involved.
The Finch family are cursed and each and every single member seems to have died in tragic circumstances, sometimes at a very young age. Seventeen year old Edith Finch is the last member of the family alive and she inherits the family home after the death of her mother. The house has remained abandoned since everybody left. Upon approaching the building at the start of the game Edith remarks that she wasn’t allowed in half of the rooms as her mother sealed them off once that particular family member died. What Remains Of Edith Finch is a game about uncovering the past, going from room to room finding what others have left behind and piecing together the story.
It would be easy for me to talk about each and every single part of Edith Finch. There were so many sections of the game that impressed me. If there’s one part that really made me sit up and take notice though it’s probably the story of Lewis Finch, about two thirds into the game’s duration.
Lewis got a job in the local fish processing plant. He takes the fish off the conveyor belt, passes them across to the blade at the side, chops the head off and then throws the rest onto another belt to be taken away and canned. It’s not the most glamourous of jobs and it’s mind numbing to the extreme. You, as the player, hold R1 to grab the fish and move the right stick to control Lewis’ right arm. After only a few seconds you’ll be engaged in a near automatic rhythm. Fish come in, slice, fish go out.
Lewis was attending regular appointments with his psychiatrist before his death and the voice that starts to fade in during this part of the game is from those sessions in the clinic. It tells of how Lewis would invent his own stories to help distract himself from this repetitive task. A small section of the screen is taken up with a storybook being opened and the tale of a prince travelling to far away lands aboard his ship begins to play out. Control of the prince is done via the left hand analog stick. As more details are given of Lewis’ made up fantasy land that section of the screen gets bigger and bigger, eventually taking up half the display. The fish are still there, you’re still controlling Lewis doing his manual day job with one hand but also playing out the Prince’s adventure with the other.
In time this story takes over the entire screen. All view of the fish has vanished and your full attention is on the prince arriving to meet a princess in a far away land. You’re walking through city streets with crowds cheering and waving. The crucial detail however is that whilst the fish might be gone you’re still moving the right stick with the same motions. You’ve become so used to doing the same movements again and again that you really haven’t had to think about it even after the bulk of your attention has been occupied by something else. You’ve been placed in a very similar situation to the character you’re controlling at that time. I actually couldn’t not remember the last time I’d seen a control method blend in so well with a character’s feeling and motivation. It’s the complete opposite of Call Of Duty’s ‘Press X to pay respects’ prompt.
Every character in Edith Finch has these moments. I didn’t finish it in one evening because I was rushing through it, I finished it because I was genuinely caught up in the story of this family and the troubles they went through. My congratulations must go to Giant Sparrow for creating one of my gaming high points of 2018 so far.