Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
June 15, 2023
Have you ever thought about working in the medical profession? Does it look like an easy job with incredible benefits? Fall of Porcupine takes you into the world of medicine by showing you the highs and lows of being a doctor. You will see doctors at their best and their worst, along with the often thankless work that they do.
The greatest strength of Fall of Porcupine is its refusal to shy away from the realities of the medical profession. It’s great at the best of times but the trauma and challenges deeply affect you. Unfortunately, Fall of Porcupine doesn’t capitalise on its strength and isn’t sure what it wants to be. There’s also some fake longevity sprinkled inside the game. The flaws slightly overshadow the story, cutting into what would otherwise be a powerful narrative.
Experiencing the struggle of doctors
Fall of Porcupine puts you in the shoes of Finley, a doctor that recently moved to the town of Porcupine. It’s his first job as a doctor and he learns the ups and downs of the profession as he works. While he gets support from colleagues and friendly neighbours, management and the realities of being a doctor drag him down. Despite these challenges, Finley keeps his head up to give the community the care they need.
Despite the cute anthropomorphic animals, soothing music, and happy environment, you know it will be a rough ride. Fall of Porcupine has a powerful story that is partly dependent on this fact. Finley is a bright-eyed doctor who wants to grow in his profession and do his best for the community. Bureaucracy and the downsides of working in healthcare are his two biggest inevitable obstacles. Dealing with bureaucracy isn’t bad, but it’s the downsides of healthcare that show the story’s real power.
Anyone who works or has worked in healthcare will relate to Finley’s struggles. For those who haven’t, you see the challenges of being a health practitioner for the first time. While you might be looking at adorable animals, it doesn’t dull the impact of the story’s most powerful moments. Tragedy strikes multiple times and seeing Finley deal with these situations is masterfully done, as well as heartbreaking.
There’s another side to all characters
Putting yourself in Finley’s shoes and working as a doctor helps you form an emotional bond with the patients. The reasons they are in the hospital can be hilarious, but the treatment and care are not. Instead of treating random patients in a hospital simulation game, you learn about the townspeople who seek treatment.
When a patient’s health deteriorates, you want them to get better because you know who they are. You aren’t treating a random tortoise that falls on the sidewalk. It’s Mrs. DiCalma, one of the oldest residents of Porcupine and a pillar of the community. Two mischievous and bickering twins sound like a case you pass on to your least favourite co-worker. But it’s Olli and Rudi, two twins who seem abrasive but ultimately care for each other.
“No one is perfect or a stereotype, as each character has layers of depth.”
No one is perfect or a stereotype, as each character has layers of depth. Exploring these layers fleshes out the cast and helps you understand them, along with the struggles they experience. That makes the story’s most impactful moments more poignant because people aren’t reacting just for the sake of it. Previous experiences or emotions make them act a certain way.
Even if it seems silly to you, you can’t entirely fault everyone for their actions. Showing the complexities of the medical profession and delivering themes that are easy to understand help this story stand out. It’s a shame that the characters never grow beyond their initial appearance, even after you see their depths. No one truly changes their mind or grows as a person. Instead, they just do their best and it doesn’t feel like they take the story’s themes to heart.
Fall of Porcupine doesn’t know what it wants to be
It’s a shame that the central part of the story is the strongest, as the introduction and ending don’t utilise that power. While you wouldn’t expect the introduction to be full of sadness and misery, it doesn’t lean on its storytelling strength. Apart from the medical mini-games which make sense, there are also platforming and turn-based combat sections. The introduction also takes a long time to start and doesn’t make sense with the rest of the story.
Fall of Porcupine advertises a mystery that Finley must solve with his friends, but that doesn’t actually exist. It’s only really given focus towards the end and it seems out of place given the prior situation. The result is a mystery that is hastily concluded and forgotten just as quickly because more important issues appear.
Instead of sticking with the bittersweet experience of being a doctor, Fall of Porcupine tries to fit in several other ideas. The result is a slow introduction with odd inclusions and a rushed ending. Seeing Finley or the other cast grow with their struggles is an impressive story by itself. Trying to fit in other mini-games or force a mystery takes away from that power. It also happens frequently enough that the overall story is less effective and the characters don’t seem to change.
If the story stuck to its strongest advantages, the characters would get more development and the story more focus. Instead, characters feel flat and unchanging with only brief growth opportunities. When the story finally concludes, you wonder what the big mystery was and why the introduction couldn’t be faster.
Fake longevity is a dominant and unfortunate presence
What also drags Fall of Porcupine down is the amount of fake longevity that extends the playtime. This is seen with the lack of navigation and directions, along with invisible walls that force you on specific routes. While the game plays like a platformer, it’s often unclear what characters are referring to. Some mini-games drag out the play time unnecessarily, forcing you to dedicate effort away from the story.
One example is going to the local supermarket to assist one of your friends. You aren’t told what the supermarket looks like or where it is specifically. The only way to tell is to search for the relevant character standing outside. Rather than providing directions for the fastest path, you are scouring the town just to find the supermarket. It quickly becomes frustrating when you don’t know what you are looking for, instead of what should be a quick errand.
The game also forces you to take specific routes instead of the fastest path available. For example, when you are delivering goods to those in need, you know what the fastest route is. For some reason, the game blocks you from taking that route and makes you take a significantly longer route. There’s no in-game reason for this to happen but you can’t progress without doing it. Forcibly dragging out the game’s length becomes a chore, turning a beautiful town into a frustrating prison.
Focusing just on the story and medical mini-games is enough to let this game shine. But throwing in several extras and having poor navigation forcibly extends the game length. The result is a great story unable to shine because the focus wasn’t there.
Greatness dragged down by ambition
There’s a great story about the challenges of the medical profession deep in Fall of Porcupine. You must be willing to wade through the introduction and be okay with a mismatched ending. If you do, you see that there’s a real struggle facing medical professionals today. Empathise with them, as they are doing a thankless job that has real consequences. That story isn’t told any better than with Fall of Porcupine, for better or for worse.
- An honest look about working in the medical profession
- Truly powerful moments that help you empathise with your local doctor
- The introduction and ending ruin the story's power
- Fake longevity turns a peaceful game into a frustrating exercise
- There's no good character growth when there should be
Fall of Porcupine tells a powerful story about the struggles of working as a medical professional. It shows the good and the bad halves without minimising their impact on people. Unfortunately, most of this powerful story happens in the middle, between an uncertain introduction and a rushed ending. The introduction is filled with several ideas that get in the way of the story’s most powerful moments. The ending tries to resolve a great mystery but doesn’t succeed at its goal. It’s a shame that the game interferes with its most powerful asset, as the story isn’t able to shine or allow for good character growth in the way it could have.