Published on May 23rd, 2022 | by Ben Veress
Arise: A Simple Story Definitive Edition Review
Summary: Arise: A Simple Story is a fantastic indie game from Piccolo Studio’s, demonstrating incredible talent.
After being released to acclaim as an indie title on Xbox, PC and Playstation, “Arise: A Simple Story” has finally launched on Switch as a Definitive Edition. The Switch version of the game comes with an art book and soundtrack for the game. There are also console exclusive mechanics such as a photo mode and gyroscope support. The game feels at home on the Switch, as a platformer with light puzzle elements, the game harkens back to classic PSP game design, which made me nostalgic for all those Little Big Planet custom levels I played growing up.
Arise is equally stunning on the Switch as it was on console and desktop. The game feels great to play on a Switch, which makes sense given the consoles steep catalogue of platformers. What really makes Arise stand out from other platforming competitors, is the emotional and engaging delivery of its narrative. Arise is a game born out of minimalist storytelling and mechanics, however it executes on these in a way that makes them feel fresh and new.
With around 5-8 hours of content, and more if you’re a collectionist, Arise is a perfect game for anyone looking for something short and sweet. while also demonstrating how video games as an art form can deliver on a bittersweet emotional experience.
Setting & Story
Arise: A Simple Story is just that – short, sweep and simple. The game starts with your character’s viking funeral, surrounded by loved ones. Afterwards, you arise in a state of limbo, exploring the characters’ life from birth, to first love, to loss, to death. In this space, you will touch stones that will transport you to different worlds representing landmark moments within the characters life. The game embarks on an almost “Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind” theme of reliving and exploring a life, and bakes it into the mechanics of the game. The level design is fantastical and maximalist, almost as though these worlds are more representations of how the character “feels” about the time in their life moreso than authentically depicting it. Falling in love is captured through jumping on flowers and popping bubbles, but being pulled apart shows the world being town in two and crashing in on itself. The game has little to no written text or dialogue, all of the story is experienced through gameplay or short ingame cinematics to conclude each level. While the story itself can be very cliche and unsurprising, the staff at Piccolo studios finds interesting and new ways to integrate aspects of depression and anxiety as gameplay mechanics to ensure the player feels connected to the games protagonist and their life.
Arise is built around its one central mechanic, which is your ability to manipulate time. However over the course of ten chapters, Piccolo games pushes this mechanic to its limits, showing all the possibilities it could offer and more. You can do this by moving time forward or backwards to make platforms, grow plants, let snow melt or fire’s burn you a path. One of the most unique levels in the game has you controlling a moving light while navigating through a dark ice cave.
Due to the game’s narrative exclusively being revealed through gameplay, we also mainly get context on who our protagonist is through these mechanics as well. The protagonist feels heavy to play. In platformers like Mario or Crash, there’s a floaty-ness to how they jump. In Arise however your character pants while running, needing time to recover after certain jumps or climbing sections. He will also die very suddenly from falling from certain heights. All of this helps reinforce a sense of vulnerability in the character.
There is a lot to do within the game’s 10 levels. The greatest part of the game is that dying within the levels doesn’t set you back much at all, which encourages you to experiment with the environmental sub mechanics of the level. There are also plenty of collectables in the form of “memories” you can collect, which are still sketches which add a bit to the characterisation of the character and the environment.
The game also has a Multiplayer component to it, where the second player can control the time manipulation mechanic. I personally couldn’t find anyone online to test this feature, but it’s a neat inclusion for some couch co-op, especially if you’re wanting an easy game to introduce someone to playing games together.
The graphics are very beautiful, however the game struggles to run at a stable framerate on the Switch. Many cutscenes would occasionally drop frames noticeably, undercutting some of the grander moments in the game. I played the game both docked and undocked, and while playing undocked, certain environmental details crucial to solving puzzles could sometimes be a bit difficult to spot. Such details like wind currents could blend in too much or be difficult to spot due to the in game lighting. This doesn’t make the game unplayable in undocked mode however, as I really found the game to be enjoyable undocked at times. However not having an ideal Display Resolution could undermine a lot of what Piccolo games were going for visually.
Arise: A Simple Story is a fantastic indie game from Piccolo Studio’s, demonstrating incredible talent. The platforming is fun and engaging, allowing anyone to dive right in without too high of a skill gap. Each world is wonderful and vibrant, with each offering a unique and interesting platforming puzzle to make every level stand out in its own way. If you’re a fan of games like Journey or Last Day of June, this game will definitely scratch that itch.