Release Date: 12/03/2019
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Simple is a great word to put in the title because this game is very simple, almost too simple and it’s a continuing issue with these “artsy-fartsy” games that have been out since Echochrome was released over 10 years ago. Journey is still the game that does this best and hasn’t been topped. While Arise actually has gameplay, unlike similar games it still has no purpose, meaning, or story. You play as an old man who is clearly remembering his past be it meeting his wife, surviving harsh journeys as a child, and various problems that arose with his own child, but these are told with just statues posing to show an image or an idea and it’s never really clear.
The majority of Arise is composed of great platforming with varied environments and time manipulation at your disposal. One level has you rewinding and fast-forwarding time to freeze or thaw water causing platforms to appear and disappear underwater. Another is a level where you just leap across lily pads and moving time makes the pads spin around. Another level is on a mountainside and you use the time to rewind time to use the destruction of the cliffside to use as platforms. It’s very unique, fun, and I had a blast figuring out how to get across each level having different uses from the time manipulation and varied levels making the 3-hour adventure never seem stale.
However, a few issues arose with weird camera angles and I couldn’t make out where I was jumping and made poor judgments. I even ran into an issue where a sparkly wind would carry me across a level and dump me on a lilypad only to fall right through it…about half a dozen times. Outside of this, the game wasn’t hard to figure out and I flew through the game in no time. The music is fantastic and has a sweeping orchestral score similar to Journey. But, unlike Journey, there just isn’t a purpose or story really told here and I want this fanciful art to stick with me. I know I’ll forget Arise in a few weeks while I still remember my three playthroughs of Journey from 7 years ago like they were yesterday.
The visuals are superb with a gorgeous art style and lighting effects. I particularly like how each level has a feeling behind the platforms. The lilypads feel squishy while another level’s bouncy round cells feel like rubber. There’s so much to look at and take in that on a really nice TV or monitor the colors will pop and dazzle you. The seven levels bring something new to the game and each one takes around 20 minutes to finish. There are even some areas where ghosts will kill you if you don’t manipulate the forest fire around you to provide light, and another level has you pausing time to light up the area with lighting strikes. It’s just such a shame there’s no reason to finish the journey other than to see the gorgeous levels.
Overall, Arise doesn’t break the cycle of artsy indie games having no story or purpose, but it at least has great gameplay unlike the majority of them. I wanted to feel the emotions the old man was going through but how can I when there’s no context? Developers need to understand that they may understand and feel what’s going on, but we as players have no clue. A few statues and an old man looking sad don’t tell us anything. Play Arise for the visuals and platforming but don’t expect something to tell your friends about.