Developer: NEXT Studios
Publisher: NEXT Studios
Release: Out now
At first, Iris.Fall looks like another in a long line of quirky indie titles with a mute young protagonist and… well, to be blunt that’s exactly what it is. There’s not a lot here that hasn’t been seen before. The monochrome visuals recall Playdead’s Limbo, and it shares a similar doom-filled atmosphere expressed through an intentionally vague narrative.
But where in Limbo every step could be your last, Iris.Fall is more a modern take on surreal classic, Alice in Wonderland. Taking control of Iris, you follow a black cat through a Victoriana-esque world filled with puzzles. One of the main mechanics here is Iris’ ability to turn into a shadow via a book, and manipulating objects and light to get to places you can’t reach in physical form. Again, it’s something that’s been done before, most notably in Compulsion Games’ Contrast. (I must stress that this isn’t meant as a criticism, though; after all, no one rubbishes Super Mario games for repeatedly using jump mechanics.)
"It's rare and refreshing to see simplicity being used so effectively"
It’s rare and refreshing to see a game use simplicity so effectively, and Iris.Fall bucks the trend of filling the screen with a tangle of systems. There’s a sharp focus here, fully exploring just a few mechanics rather than fobbing you off with busywork, like too many open-world games. If there’s one complaint, it’s that there’s nothing here that Iris.Fall can really claim as its own.
So while Iris.Fall doesn’t push any envelopes, it’s all done with such confidence and charm that you can’t help but be compelled to play it through. It’s pleasing to see its story revealed through both the mechanics and hand-drawn animation, with themes of light and shade a constant in its two-to-three hour playing time. It isn’t going to challenge the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 for longevity, but it’s utterly stuffed with ingenious design touches. There’s a huge range of variety in its challenges, from simple lock-and-key puzzles to more complex conundrums involving Rubik-esque cubes and light beams, all of which are instantly intuitive – there are no tutorials to get in the way here.
In a way, it’s a shame that Iris.Fall is only currently available on PC, because it’s a wonderfully accessible puzzle adventure. Its simple controls could easily be translated to a touchscreen, and its pace would be ideal for kicking back on a couch. Hopefully it’ll get ported to more platforms in time, but for now, this is a perfect title for anyone wanting a bite-sized yet satisfying experience.
Iris.Fall’s cel-shaded aesthetic is an intriguing mix, mashing up anime and gothic illustration in the style of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey. When most games either want to dazzle you with photorealistic vistas or tickle your nostalgia zone with pixels, Iris.Fall is a breath of fresh air for the eyes.
An evocative trip through a series of wonderfully intuitive puzzles that doesn’t outstay its welcome.