The Art of Games: ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’ is a joy of tragedies

Welcome to the newest addition to the Tufts Daily Arts section: The Art of Games. In this new weekly column, I will be reviewing games, giving my thoughts on the state of the industry and just taking a look into the world of games. Without any further introduction, here is my review of the video game “What Remains of Edith Finch” (2017).

“What Remains of Edith Finch” is one of the most profound interactive experiences to come out of 2017. A first-person adventure game, you play as the titular character, Edith Finch, Jr., a 17-year-old girl who returns to her childhood home hoping to confront her family’s past and investigate an alleged curse behind the deaths of all her relatives. What results is a thought-provoking experience consisting of fun gameplay, interesting characters and heartbreaking moments.

The house that you explore through the game is just as much a character as any of the Finches. Its secret passageways and locked rooms are handcrafted and feel real in spite of the house’s impossible structure. A particular standout is a recreation of an elementary school classroom, which was so spot-on that it brought on nostalgia for my own elementary school days. The game’s short length is what allows for this level of detail; clocking in at just three hours, Edith Finch is a short game by any definition. However, it never gets boring, and the length is a worthy trade-off for the level of detail in the world. Constantly crossing the line between real and fantastical, the Finch house is representative of the rest of the experience.

In spite of its fantastical and whimsical nature, “What Remains of Edith Finch” is not a happy game. Rather, the game continually returns to tragedy, with the player experiencing the death of each of Edith Finch’s ancestors through a series of one-off experiences. Although often lighthearted and fun on the surface, these experiences never let you forget that death is at their core. All of them are thought-provoking and many of them employ a playful nature that makes their morbid subjects all the more profound.

“What Remains of Edith Finch” is not without flaws, however. Perhaps the most significant annoyance is the controls for some of these one-off experiences. While the majority play without issue, some have controls which are inexact, leading to frustration. Alongside frustrating controls, your goal is often unclear, further adding to the annoyance. While these issues would have been less problematic in another game, they stand out in “What Remains of Edith Finch.” Instead of being small complaints, they can turn what was intended to be a profound experience into one of frustration. These issues are only present in a few of the experiences, however, and the majority control without flaw. Whether you are taking pictures with a polaroid camera or jumping from tree branches as a cat, all of these experiences are engaging and wondrous, if depressing — a statement that applies to the game as a whole.