If there’s one thing I took from my time playing Arise: A Simple Story, it’s that death doesn’t have to be sad. Instead, it can be a beautiful journey where one is able to recollect the events that shaped their lives and the person they became, and whilst there may be bumps along the way, it brings with it a real sense of serenity.
Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I felt about my experience with the game. Whilst Arise: A Simple Story does have some niggles, the adventure it offers is a joyous and creative one that I enjoyed being a part of.
Check out some screenshots down below:
The game kicks off with a group of people mourning the death of an old man, with his funeral pyre lit up for his ashes to be one with the earth. Or at least that’s what you’d expect to happen; instead, you embark on a beautiful journey as the man as he re-lives the memories of his life, albeit in a mesmerising and highly fantasied fashion.
This means exploring a myriad of weird and wonderful levels full of platforming challenges and time manipulation. The platforming mostly consists of running, jumping, and swinging around, so anyone familiar with the genre will be right at home. It does have a few moments where the lack of camera control could make it a little tricky to nail a jump with perfect accuracy, but for the most part it’s competent and delivers everything you’d expect. On the other hand, the time-bending brings a clever puzzling element to the experience. Players can both rewind and fast-forward time with a flick of the right control stick, with the world shifting between phases of time – this will see various things occur, such as water levels raising and lowering, different creatures appearing, the build up of snow in a cold environment, or even a sunflower move around in order to follow the direction of the sun, just to name a few.
It’s a really neat feature that adds a cute element of interaction within the world, but it also ties to your progress. Can’t reach an area because water is blocking your path? Turn back time to decrease the water level and run across to it. Need to reach a high area? Grapple onto a passing bee and send time forward so it’ll lead you along its path. Need to stop a ledge from crumbling when you land on it? Freeze time in place and ensure the platform remains a sturdy one. The time-shifting mechanics are the crux of your progress through the game, with Arise: A Simple Story offering plenty of clever scenarios where you’ll have to tinker with time to traverse from point A to B. It ensures that the game feels like more than just your typical platformer, with each level full of these creative little instances that were always fun to unravel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never challenging to work out what you need to do, but it didn’t stop me from loving seeing each scenario unfold.
“The time-shifting mechanics are the crux of your progress through the game, with Arise: A Simple Story offering plenty of clever scenarios where you’ll have to tinker with time to traverse from point A to B.”
What complements the action is the game’s vibrant visuals and imaginative world design. Whilst you’ll typically find yourself on a fairly linear pathway, there’s a staggering sense of depth to the world that makes it feel like it expands right across the horizon. Admittedly, the visuals don’t pack as much punch on the Nintendo Switch as those seen on other platforms (especially on handheld where there’s a little bit of blurriness because of the resolution) and I did notice a few stutters in the frame rate at times, but it still looks impressive with the world packed with colourful and memorable sights.
One thing I really liked about Arise: A Simple Story was its subtlety. There isn’t a story being directly told to the player with words, but instead one to be discovered by simply admiring the environmental storytelling and engulfing yourself in the vibe it lets off. It is possible to get a better glimpse into the protagonist’s life by grabbing some collectibles scattered across the environment, but again, they don’t offer a deep dive into the story but instead a still image that represents one of his own memories. It’s a nice touch that goes a long way in giving the tale more meaning but without throwing it in the player’s face. It fits the tone of the game perfectly, with the emotionally-driven narrative one that doesn’t need words to empathise with.
Check out some screenshots down below:
It won’t take players long to complete Arise: A Simple Story, with the ten chapters only taking around three hours to clear – there isn’t really much replayability outside of finding all the collectibles either, with it one of those games that loses its allure after beating it once. That first playthrough, though? It’s mesmerising and really kept me hooked in. One neat feature is the ability to play in local co-op, with one player controlling the main character and the other the flow of time. Whilst it isn’t the most intricate of co-op experiences, it does give an intriguing way to experience the game where you’ll have to put your heads together if you want to succeed.
Arise: A Simple Story Review
Arise: A Simple Story pulls together an emotional narrative, beautiful world, and creative time-bending gameplay into one heck of an enjoyable experience. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a difficult game and the limitations of the Nintendo Switch do mean that the visuals aren’t as sharp as other platforms, but it didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the journey and the many clever ways it let me interact with its world.
Developer: Piccolo Studio
Publisher: Untold Tales
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC