Relationships are difficult. Long distance ones, even more so. Before A Fold Apart begins, you choose the couple that best represents you, whatever your orientation or gender. It’s fairly inclusive, which is a nice gesture right from the start. Once the story begins, your chosen couple is shown meeting and falling in love, all told in a beautiful, colourful papercraft world.
Things take a turn however, when one of them gets a job abroad. Both put on a brave face over it all, and have entertaining text chats whenever they can, but the strain begins to show. In between the text chats, our characters begin to think about what has just been said, sometimes getting lost in their own thoughts as they worry about what to say next and how they feel about their current predicament. Text unfolds across the screen, giving voice to the thoughts of loneliness and isolation that makes a person’s thoughts get twisted up and lost in the silence when there’s nobody to talk to. They get lost in the fantastical world within their minds, which has them stranded on platforms with no route forward. This is where the puzzle gameplay comes in.
As your character wanders through interlocking scenes, pasted on top of one another like a collage, you’ll come across these seemingly impassable scenes. Using the right stick (when played with a controller), you fold the picture in on itself, creating bridges as you attempt to get through each thought. The goal is to reach the star, which will paste on a new image that you can walk into and progress the story. The more you play, the more difficult it can be to reach that star. The darker the character’s mood, the harder it feels to move past that scene. It’s an interesting concept that works really well.
The whole folding mechanic is great, with new features added as the game goes on. You might have to flip the image around first, revealing a new image on the reverse, then fold yourself onto that side of the paper. You might have to fold things multiple times, bringing a platform closer to you, or even rotate an image so that you can drop down to where you need to be. Other puzzles require a block to climb up to the star, sometimes needing you to fold it down from elsewhere or drop it from above somehow. Careful thought is needed but it never feels unfair.
The climbing does highlight a pacing issue with A Fold Apart, though. It’s not a long game, nor does it need to be, but sometimes it does feel unnecessarily slow. Movement can stop multiple times as the character processes their current thoughts, or take time to send a text, and although it might sound picky, sometimes you just want to get on with it. Where I don’t believe it is picky however, is in its climbing animations. It’s painfully slow. Sometimes you’re forced to climb over a moveable block in order to push it the other way, so you sit and you watch them climb slowly and deliberately onto the block, then slowly and deliberately climb down the other side, before pushing the block and then slowly and deliberately climb back onto the block and then slowly and deliberately up to the star. There are even moments outside of puzzles where you’re forced to climb like this, and it feels like it’s dragging things out. I found myself rolling my eyes, during these moments.
Despite all this, plus one or two issues with the folding controls during later puzzles, A Fold Apart is a solid little puzzle game with a simple yet deep story of love and the struggles of maintaining a long distance relationship. It will sometimes make you frown, but it will also make you smile and feel that warmth in your heart as you follow your chosen couple’s path.
Lovely art style
Interesting puzzle mechanic
Some awkward folding controls
Unnecessarily slow pace at times
Telling a touching tale of a couple in a long distance relationship, A Fold Apart is a puzzle game with a bit of a difference and a whole lot of heart.