What Remains of Edith Finch is a poignant, understated tale that has a strong message of family and what it means to belong. As the each thought plays out and words flutter delicately across the screen, blending with the scenery, the exploration of a house that has been truly lived in becomes so much more than just a walking simulation that these slow-burn stories are often accused of. By the end of the experience, I felt touched, with some moments truly staying with me in my thoughts for days after I had completed it.
A story about a family that truly believes it is cursed, Edith Finch has you exploring the family home (which is off the beaten path in the first place), finding hidden rooms, locked compartments and a family tree full of secrets. To call it a true puzzler is a bit of a stretch, as you’ll mostly be moving from room to room one step at a time, until you uncover a diary or other personal item that triggers a flashback to that family members untimely demise.
Oddly, this exercise is one that is inquisitive and somewhat romantic, never dark and dreary or truly horrific (except for perhaps one in particular). The flashbacks are all interactive in different ways; some of them are traditional first person exploration, while others have you transforming into animals and traversing frame-by-frame through a found comic book.
What Remains of Edith Finch used this variety to consistently keep me intrigued, and while some of the flashbacks were a lot shorter or less effective than others, my curiosity was always satisfied as I uncovered the past, jotted it down on my family tree and closed a chapter, not just of the game, but of a human being that I felt strangely connected to.
I’m especially impressed that they’ve handled some of the deaths so delicately, especially those of the children. They’re certainly heartbreaking and often gave me tingles, but there’s an exuberance to the delivery that never causes you to feel too much sadness, not longer than a moment or two until you find the next beautiful, devastating story.
“… the intricate personal touches on display lent even more weight to the tragic tales that followed.”
The Finch home, with all of its secrets, feels like a true character in and of itself. As the initial mystery implies that the house had been left in a hurry, there are dishes still on the table, books stacked in the hallways and other objects thrown about in a way that makes it feel truly lived in, not just a set-piece. There are so many small details that it took me a second play-through to really appreciate the organized chaos of this home, and the amount of intricate personal touches on display lent even more weight to the tragic tales that followed.
My only issue with Edith Finch is that the experience is over a little too quickly, but to do any more would take away from the importance of the stories that are there, in particular the ones that are so well crafted. The game will only take a couple of hours to finish, but the ability to go back and replay your favourite flashbacks or meticulously explore the Finch home is incentive enough to spend some more time in this mysterious, somewhat magical world.
The Bottom Line
There’s a charm to What Remains of Edith Finch that keeps specific scenes lodged in my memory, begging for me to experience them one more time. The stronger, slower and more methodical moments definitely stand out in a story of a clan who ultimately didn’t know each other that well, but have a true love for the stories they’ve left behind. It’s a rather simple experience, but it really struck a chord with me and hopefully, it will with you too.