I lived in an apartment complex when I was a kid and there were only so many things to do. I remember getting out of class and exploring the woods with my brother and our friends. We climbed trees that were far too tall and built a tiny fort out of branches, turning it into our own little world. We were always finding things to do until the screech of a loud whistle signaled us to come home. Arise: A Simple Story reminds me of those pleasant times.
Arise: A Simple Story is a Biography of Your Life
When I previewed Arise, I got a taste of how each level represents a relatable emotion. I remember playing an area about the simple joys of being a child and thinking, this is only the beginning. The 10 unique levels impart a linear story about an old man reliving his life from childhood to old age. Developer Piccolo Studio uses emotions from several stages of life to craft a storyline about your life.
The main mechanic in Arise revolves around manipulating time to solve platforming puzzles. This is a feature I’ve seen in a few other places, but it’s rarely executed as well as it is here. Certain levels use time control to create constant tension, further selling the theme of that level’s emotion. Others use the same mechanic to achieve the opposite effect.
For example, I controlled time haphazardly in a calmer level, not worrying about my mistakes. Seeing the time of day change from morning to night was more peaceful than anything. In a tougher area, there was a continual struggle as my impending doom inched closer. Trying to manage the fire on my heels without speeding time too far ahead or back was quite stressful.
The Underlying Story of the Old Man
The subtitle “A Simple Story” isn’t a mistake by any means. The main character is a silent protagonist with no name. The absence of dialogue implies a weak narrative. However, hidden collectibles unlock simple drawings that share memories for each stage of the old man’s life.
While these drawings are usually easy to find, a few inevitably slip by. Missing those few can be disappointing since these drawings tell the main story. This leads to the common video game dilemma of trying to figure out which path is a side route and which isn’t.
The memories are the easiest way to follow the old man’s journey. However, the design and soundtrack behind every area strongly contribute to the story. It’s easy to see the cheerfulness of an environment overflowing with vibrant colors. Meanwhile, it’s easy to feel the melancholy vibe of gloomy colors suffocating me. The same way the color scheme evokes emotion, the soundtrack holds your hand on this adventure.
Composer David Garcia controls the mood the same way a singer sets the vibe at a concert. The soundtrack is frequently the most important part of Arise in how it makes you feel. While one area is comparable to a ballet in both its gameplay and music, another area is somber and serious. The soundtrack alone is another great way to absorb the story.
Turning Back the Clock to Move Forward
The time mechanic in Arise is fascinating because it produces scenarios like turning back time to repair a shattered landbridge. Another great example is speeding a blizzard ahead to create a giant pile of snow for reaching a ledge. These are only a couple of ways to solve mini puzzles through time manipulation.
Every level has its own version of time control and it constantly impresses me. In a game where you’re advancing from a child to an old man, moving time and seasons along the way is always interesting. Arise: A Simple Story continues to be magnificent every step of the way because it never stops surprising me.
TechRaptor reviewed Arise: A Simple Story on PC via the Epic Game Store with a code provided by the publisher.