Every now and then a game comes along that you know is going to give your emotions a workout. The Last of Us, Papo & Yo, and Dead Island (well, that trailer, anyway) all come to mind. I’m sure you can think of a couple as well. To Leave, from Ecuadorian indie studio Freaky Creations, is trying to join that list of emotional games. Though our E3 coverage may be winding down, we’d feel remiss if we didn’t share our hands-on experience with this upcoming game.
To Leave is one tough game. You traverse the world by grabbing onto a door that can fly. It seems to use a propulsion system that isn’t too far removed from a hovercraft. You hold X to achieve lift, and use the analog stick to navigate. You have to be careful, though, as touching any object or wall other than these stone checkpoints results in a restart back at the last checkpoint you landed on. As if these constraints weren’t enough, you are also on a time limit. Take too long, and you’ll likely have to restart the entire level. Extra time is granted by picking up floating squares or by landing on a checkpoint for the first time. In one particularly long section between checkpoints, I must have died a few dozen times. Once I got through the challenging section, though, I could just feel the endorphins coursing through my veins – it’s that rewarding.
The artstyle in To Leave is quite wonderful, especially on the Vita. A wide color palette is used, and characters are animated in a very smooth manner. Levels can include tiny corridors in one moment, and expansive vistas the next. Stylistically, the game evokes memories of Knytt Underground, which was a freebie on PlayStation Plus last year. There’s a hefty dose of fantasy mixed in with the run-down look that the world presents.
Of course, To Leave‘s beauty is more than just skin-deep. The city of Candice can be taken at face value, sure. It’s a city that is fire at its core. It lets its citizens live their relatively easy lives for a while, until it needs more fuel and consumes a couple of them. But the city can stand as a metaphor for addiction or abusive people, which can be difficult to get away from because it is often easier to stay, to keep things the same. The protagonist, known simply as Harm, decides one day that he wants to leave the city. There is a vertical railway which acts as the city’s way of shuttling materials to and fro, as well as the only possible way to leave. As the boy grasps the handle of the door, you see him hesitate as he contemplates on whether or not he actually wants to leave for good, but in a short moment you begin the hard task of moving on from the negativity that the city stands for.
To Leave is a game that should be played by gamers of all types. For those that want a challenge, this game brings it in spades. Many of the sections of the various levels are almost infuriatingly difficult. But much like most things in life, if you really want something you have to earn it through hard work and dedication. Persevere, and you will be rewarded. Quit, and the fact that you couldn’t finish your task will eat at you until you hopefully pick yourself up and try again. Fraught with symbolism, To Leave is a game to look out for when it releases on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows, Mac, and Linux later this year.