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Arise: A Simple Story

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Techland
Developer: Piccolo Studio
Release Date: Dec. 3, 2019


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Arise: A Simple Story'

by Adam Pavlacka on Nov. 27, 2019 @ 1:13 a.m. PST

Arise is an emotional journey and a deeply moving adventure game through the life of two people where memories come alive and time bends to the player's will.

There are many different ways to tell a story. You can use the written word. You can use video. You can go big. You can go small. And you can go simple. The latter is how the developers at Piccolo Studio decided to approach their first game, aptly titled Arise: A Simple Story.

One thing you quickly notice about Arise is the lack of words. There is no written text (aside from some key UI bits, like the title screen and chapter names), and there are no spoken words in the game. Instead, the story is told through a combination of visuals and music. When demoing the game, Piccolo Studio co-founder Alexis Corominas described the creative choice as, "The language we use is music and the environment. Every chapter is about a feeling, a memory."

Each of the 10 chapters in Arise is a memory. You start the game, having recently died, and wake up in the afterlife. Wandering from memory to memory, the game tells the story of your life, and your love, as you relive key moments from your past. This isn't a mere walking simulator, though, as Arise allows you to play around with the passage of time to solve puzzles.

Instead of giving you control of the camera, Arise uses a fixed camera and uses the second analog stick to rewind or fast-forward time. The amount of time can be mere seconds, minutes, or even months. The "time window," as it were, is fixed for each chapter. You can go forward or back as much as you like, but only within that window.

Moving through time is where many of Arise's puzzle solving elements come into play. For example, to cross a chasm, you may need to grab onto a flying bumblebee. What if the bee isn't flying by? Reverse time until it appears, grab hold, and then let time move forward. Another challenge that I came across was during an earthquake on a mountain pass. There was a large chasm, and to cross it, I had to freeze time as a large chunk of rock fell, and then use the same chunk as a floating platform to jump over.

After you get used to manipulating time in a certain way, Arise mixes things up so you're always on your toes. At one point, I came across a rolling boulder. I had to freeze time, jump on it, and then reverse time while walking along the surface as the boulder rolled back to its source. It wasn't a particularly difficult action, but it gives you an idea of how the developers are trying to tweak things from chapter to chapter. Time can also be used in less direct ways, such as tilting the direction of giant sunflowers to make it easier to hop from flower to flower.

For co-op, Arise promises to force you to work together by literally splitting the controls in two. I didn't get a chance to try this mode, but according to Piccolo Studios, when playing in co-op, one person controls the main character, while the other controls the passage of time. As you can guess, you'll have to be communicating well because if you don't work as a team, it'll mean a quick death.

Thankfully, death doesn't seem to be that big a deal in Arise. For one, you're already dead and just experiencing memories. For another, Arise seems to have a smart checkpoint system. When I died while playing the preview code, I always reloaded quickly and near where I had died. There wasn't any unnecessary backtracking or repetition.

I was also impressed with the artistic visual style used for the game. Arise goes for a look that is somewhere in between a cartoon and a painting, and it works. There is enough expression among the in-game characters to get a feel for the story, while also successfully maintaining a surreal and dreamlike quality. For the adventurous, more details of the story are told through sketches that are unlockable extras in each world. You don't need to find all of these hidden images to understand the story, but they should add some color to your adventures.

What surprised me the most about the Arise demo was how well it all seemed to work together. Demos are always intriguing because they are a small slice of a larger whole, but after playing portions of Joy (Chapter 2) and Away (Chapter 3), I walked away with the distinct desire to play more. If Arise isn't on your radar yet, be sure to check it out.

We'll have a final verdict on Arise when it releases next month, but you can check out some hands-on gameplay videos right now.

Arise: A Simple Story is coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC (Epic Games Store) on Dec. 3, 2019.

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