If there’s one common thread among the stories in the Finch family, it’s that they all end in death. As each member of the Finch family dies, their room is sealed and their story forgotten until the last remaining Finch returns to the house to uncover the secrets of her family history. What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short stories told over the course of Edith Finch’s wider narrative as she tries to make sense of the apparent curse that has led to the untimely demise of each branch on the family tree, all while engaging the player in the story in a way that made me feel like I was a part of the Finch family too.
As Edith Finch begins to explore the house, she finds her way into each of the locked rooms where she is granted a small panorama into the misfortune that occurs at the end of each family member’s life. Giant Sparrow has done an incredible job using common objects and experiences to connect with players on a sentimental level. In my preview from PSX, I detailed how one of the stories is about nothing more than swinging on a swing, yet speaks volumes beyond what the simple premise may suggest, while forming an intimate bond with myself and my childhood memories in a brief span of about five minutes. Even the house has many familiar elements while entering into an uncanny realm of eerie and peculiar, almost as much a character itself as it is the setting for the elegantly grim memoirs held within its walls.
One story is told through the lens of a camera as Edith thumbs through a series of photographs. Another is recounted as a comic book style story, jumping from panel to panel with certain interactive moments and dark surprises held within. It’s all done in such a way as to never get boring, as most of these so called walking simulators can find themselves near the end. I always felt engaged and ready to continue digging into the Finch family history, enough to complete the game in a single sitting. Granted, coming in at between two and three hours for the whole game, it’s easy to do. A shorter length in no way makes it a bad game though. Even once my PS4 was off, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Finch family and the brilliantly perfect pacing that revealed just enough to always leave me appeased yet wanting more, feeling as though I myself was a member of this cursed family.
Some stories make it very clear how the subject of the sad tale met their demise, while others are left up to interpretation. Much like rummaging through the secrets of the past, it’s never quite clear what’s fact and what’s fiction, these beautifully tragic moments left up to the perception of the player, leaving as many questions to be asked as those it answers. Did Barbara’s life really end the way her comic book detailed? Was Milton’s disappearance truly what we come to understand from his story? Each is told from a unique mindset using particular storytelling methods that highlight the psychology of the perspective it is viewed from. Mental illness and depression is the focus of one tale, and through a thought-provoking dual control scheme, underlines the act of sending your body through the motions of daily life while your mind is free to wander and conquer kingdoms. And that’s not even the most sad of the stories the house holds.
It’s difficult to talk much about What Remains of Edith Finch without spoiling the sense of discovery that it brings. Much of the bereaved joy of playing the game came through taking the time to put together the secrets of the Finch family through these small windows and contextual clues set within the contents of the house. A picture on the wall. A small comment from Edith as she explores the rooms. A seemingly inconspicuous detail in one of the tragic stories of death. It’s truly amazing what you can learn about a family by only witnessing each of their final moments and exploring a house that stands frozen at both the brightest and darkest moments, a lustrous and bleak time capsule.
If you are looking for a game with a skill requirement or a bunch of puzzles to solve, you might end up disappointed. What Remains of Edith Finch is an interactive narrative, a story that is best told by inviting the player to take a hands on part in the discovery. The puzzle to solve is that of the Finch family, and the only skill you’ll need is having an open mind to allow Giant Sparrow’s masterpiece to connect with the deep and core parts of yourself that you may have locked away like a Finch secret. Remember wanting to fly while on a swing. Embrace having been sent to bed without food. Remember those family camping trips you never really wanted to be a part of. Every player should be able to find some part of themselves that they can connect with a part of the Finch family history.
What Remains of Edith Finch is one of the most engaging pieces of interactive storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I walked away at the end of the credits strangely satisfied by being unsatisfied. These brief but intimate windows into the most tragic of the Finch family’s moments leave so many questions unanswered, but give just enough to let your imagination fill in the holes. I felt that I had really explored the sad and storied history of this house and family, discovering only what the walls wanted to show me. The rest was left wrapped in mystery as I stood the final living member of the Finch bloodline. Through uniquely visceral methods, Giant Sparrow made sure that my familiarity with the Finches at their most tragic moments made me feel like a part of the family.
What Remains of Edith Finch review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.