Many of us, at some point in our lives, have had to deal with death. It may be a dear friend, a grandparent, or somebody taken far too earlier than they should, but it’s something we’re all too familiar with. We grieve, we cry – we struggle to get through the days thereafter, but eventually, we rebuild, and somehow, we move on. What Remains of Edith Finch reminds us that no matter whom we lose and under what circumstances it may happen, it is the stories we’re told, and the memories we have of those we’ve lost that live on, forever etched into our hearts.
It’s going to be hard to talk about Giant Sparrow’s second game without tearing up, because it hit far too close to home and reminded me very much of my mum, and the loss she has had to face in her lifetime, but I guess that is part of what makes it so special. You play as Edith Finch, the last remaining member of the Finch family, returning to her childhood home many years later. Piles of books and empty Chinese takeaway boxes litter the floors, tables, and stairways, and all of the bedroom doors have been sealed by your mother.
As you explore the house, you begin to learn that the reason these doors have been closed off is due to a family curse. Since the house was built by your great-grandfather Sven, many of the Finch family have died, and each room was blocked off to preserve the memory of their lives. Thing is, Sven was a very talented architect, and throughout the house there are secret passageways leading to the rooms through rear entrances and hidden hatches, so Edith is able to uncover the stories of those of your family who passed on.
You carry around a book with a family tree drawn into it, and as you find out more about the different family members, Edith draws a picture of each person – a way to distinguish whose death has been discovered. Some of the ideas in portraying the Finch family are so smart, such as how you find out about your brother Lewis’ depression, your great-aunt Barbara’s short stint in Hollywood, and your grandad Sam’s tragic final moments on a hunting trip with your mum. The entire game is crafted superbly, with a house that feels lived in – felt lived in, memories that have been given a great deal of care and respect, and a story unlike anything I’ve seen before.
If you ever played The Unfinished Swan, you’ll already have some idea just how much Giant Sparrow uses words as art, and how description or script comes to life through virtuosity on screen. Whether you’re walking through the gardens, the loft, or in the kitchen and the various bedrooms, text appears in front of you, above, or in the distance, integrating the story with this text as part of the house, making them one and the same. It’s a beautiful design choice, and also a great way to know you’re progressing in the correct way, but it’s not a difficult game to play, and its lenience is always appreciated. The soundtrack is also stunning, knowing exactly how to compliment each scene, and finding the right melodies to sooth your aching heart.
What Remains of Edith Finch deals with loss sensitively, and embodies great deals of poignancy when showing you how the deaths occurred; each room unlocks a memory, often from the perspective of the person that died, moments before they died. Some are very upsetting, especially Gregory – your mother’s brother – but Giant Sparrow uses its imagination and creativity to hold you through the loss, helping you to see the various sides of losing a loved one. You see a lot of death, but it’s not glorified, instead it’s more about life being celebrated.
Once the game had finished, I was left contemplating the way I live, and how maybe, I should try and stop thinking about living and just enjoy life. What Remains of Edith Finch celebrates life as well as showing you how fragile it is, and those that surround you daily could one day disappear as easy as they came in. Never take those around you for granted, and understand just how important it is to be a part of life, and the privilege of living. I hope many of people playing this get as much out of it as I did, and I’d like to thank Giant Sparrow for creating something so profound and important.
The house is well designed
Some great ideas in portraying the memories
Occasional frame-rate issues when saving