April 17, 2020
Lightning Rod Games
Lightning Rod Games
It’s odd talking about A Fold Apart given the circumstances. At present, we are a few weeks into COVID-19 shutdown. Friends and family are separated, and only through technology can we maintain any modicum of a relationship. A Fold Apart feels like quite the reflection of the world today. In it, a couple struggles to maintain their connection despite the vast distance. However, not unlike self-isolation, the game can feel confusing and uncomfortable.
It hurts not being a big fan of this game because the concept feels like a slam dunk. The premise is simple – a couple is dealing with the anguish of a long-distance relationship. One, depicted in red, is the more creative type, enjoying the freedom of the country. The other, in blue, leaves the country to pursue a dream job, designing a city landmark. However, over time they find themselves worried, frustrated and lonely by the time spent apart. There are questions of loyalty, of commitment, of the value of the relationship and their respective dreams.
The story is such a good match for the gameplay. The gameplay is all about perspective. You fold pictures and in doing so create new pathways to traverse to the endpoint. It’s only by re-evaluating the environment that you can traverse it. Similarly, It’s only by re-evaluating the conversation that you can traverse it. So, the concept is great, but unfortunately it doesn’t all quite come together. However the papercraft style is sleek and simple in its visual language, so that definitely deserves some love.
I will give a golf clap to the homoromantic representation within the game. Red and blue can be boy and girl, two boys, or two girl. That’s a simple yet effective form of inclusivity and it’s great to see. Although generally, I was a little underwhelmed by A Fold Apart’s story. My problem is pretty simple, the story doesn’t really go anywhere. Both parties get angry, and by chapter’s end they’ve gotten past it. Sure, it feels realistic, and as a fairly anxious person myself, I can totally empathise with either character. Perhaps you’re worrying that you’ve conceded too much ground and made yourself a pushover, or angry that someone has been ignoring you. Maybe you’re paranoid that the person doesn’t like you and is just placating you. These are feelings I, and I suspect many others, have felt from time to time.
So, if the story is realistic and feels real, why the dislike? Well, the problem is usually narratives make things more interesting. The story gets more dramatic, it takes a twist, arguments reach a boiling point, something like that. A Fold Apart doesn’t really do that. Without spoiling too much, the game ends with a twist so cliché that it hardly feels like a twist at all. It also has barely any impact on the dynamics of the game outside of some slight escalation.
The gameplay is usually solid, but it also didn’t draw me in. The idea starts simple, you can flip the photo over, and fold along the edges to create new paths. From this concept, the game builds. Robots are introduced that stop you from crossing sections of path, folding corners and rotating the image providing some different challenges. Although despite this it overall felt very one note.
How could gameplay that evolves over time feel one note? There are a few points to consider.
Firstly, the gameplay isn’t always intuitive. Consider the folding corners mechanic. The idea is that by folding a corner, you are introducing both the folding transportation, but with a rotation of the environment as well. So, there are moments where you undo a fold, and must think about the character’s location on the reverse image AND the re-orientated character. It’s very easy to get confused by what the puzzle is trying to do. There’s no immediacy to how things work, and I often felt like I barely followed what I was doing.
The second problem is like the narrative, there was no twist. I suppose it’s not fair to assume that the game will change dramatically, but there was no sense that things were really evolving. You start being able to only fold from the sides. Then you can fold from the top and bottom. Later still you can fold from corners. Sure, this is new stuff. This gives more interesting resources and more chances for new puzzles. But let’s be honest, that’s not an interesting change up to the formula. I didn’t mind the original concept of the puzzle. But even if I loved it, I’d want to see the game iterate and elevate the concept. Folding is a cool mechanic, but it isn’t something that can carry the game in its entirety.
Overall, A Fold Apart was somewhat frustrating to play. Luckily there is a hint mode, which I will admit to using. I tried using it sparingly, but in a testament to both my frustration and diminishing patience with what the game was offering, I couldn’t stop myself.
A Fold Apart is not without its glitches. There are a few out of nowhere deaths, dying for no reason, or because of glitching through floors. The most frustrating was the character disappearing. While you’re looking elsewhere the character just vanishes. With no character the game is rendered unplayable, so you’re forced to reset. As a bonus, resetting is no guarantee of preventing the exact same bug. So usually you have to return back to the main menu and reboot from there. It’s not enough to ruin the game but it’s not a good look.
- Cool gameplay concept
- Realistic relationship drama
- Beautiful papercraft style
- The story feels a little underdeveloped
- Gameplay doesn't evolve enough
- Glitches can worsen the experiennce
A Fold Apart goes on a sadly well populated pile of games that suffer from “good idea, poor execution”. The use of perspective gameplay gels well with an interesting idea for a story. But the gameplay is less than fun, and the story loudly and busily goes nowhere. Not quite up to scratch I’m afraid.