Review: Arise: A Simple Story

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Initially released on PC, Arise: A Simple Story has made its way to the Nintendo Switch in the form of a Definitive Edition. Games like this just make sense for the Switch. I, for one, am happy that Arise: A Simple Story has made the journey to the Nintendo console so that more players can experience this incredibly heartfelt, albeit short video game. 

Arise: A Simple Story opens with the main character’s death, in which their body is sent to the afterlife via a Viking-style cremation upon a funeral pyre. They awake atop a snowy mountain, and this is where your journey begins. As the main character, you will embark on a voyage collecting memories from the life you have left behind. A dialogue-less and wordless adventure, this is a sweet game packed with a lot of heart that will tug on your heartstrings if you allow yourself to be consumed by it. 

The visuals stand out in Arise: A Simple Story. The world you awake in is a minimalist, vast, clean landscape. The character models of the main characters are poor, but this is easily forgiven thanks to how tranquil the setting is. This world was created by the artist’s Piccolo Studio, who should be proud of their creation. 

These serene visuals are partnered with an incredibly calm and zen soundtrack. The melodic piano keys that accompany you on your adventure set the tone of a slow-paced, heavenly story, which is how I imagine Piccolo Studio envisioned it to be. 

Whilst we are on the subject of the pace, this can be a negative for some. For this game genre, a slow pace is usually needed to form the narrative and captivate the player — and this works. Although, in between the moments of the story, where you are navigating extensive plains or climbing cliffsides or ledges, the game can feel like it’s purposely dragging its feet to reach a more acceptable video game length.

As the title says, the gameplay and controls in Arise: A Simple Story are simple! The in-game tutorial does well to ease the new mechanics, such as climbing and jumping from ledge to ledge and never feels demanding. You’ll rarely need to react quickly within Arise, allowing you to take your time and navigate the story and land. Although the controls are smooth, the execution is rough around the edges. I lost count of the number of times the character ran off the edge and drowned or fell to their ‘death’ due to the jump not registering as smoothly or instantly as expected. Thankfully, you always seem to revive pretty close to where you fell. 

The world you are in initially feels quite empty, vast, and spacious; however, there are many puzzle elements you must overcome to traverse the land. Most are through the use of your control over time. You can move forward or backwards either using the right stick or tilting with gyro controls. This causes snow mounds to increase and decrease and ocean tides to rise and fall. These changes in the landscape allow for a handful of puzzle platforming. Although none of these ‘puzzles’ are challenging, some can take a little while, mainly due to the significant gaps of land between them, or getting the sea level in line, so that you aren’t leaping to your ‘death’. Co-op mode is available. However, the second player only can control the time mechanic, which isn’t that fun for them when you aren’t solving puzzles. 

Arise: A Simple Story is a clean and slick experience, but one area that impacts the aesthetic is the loading screen and times. The melodic piano tune will suddenly cut out, and the screen will turn white – no music replaces this, and at first, I thought my game had frozen or crashed. This hinders the emotional journey that publishers Untold Tales want you to experience. Unfortunately, this occurs each and every time…

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