Arise: A Simple Story Review — Sweet Memories Flashing Very Quickly By
Piccolo Studio's Arise: A Simple Story tells its tale with beautiful dreamscapes and time-altering gameplay, but fails to engage players.
Arise: A Simple Story
PC, Xbox One
Review copy provided by the publisher
Arise: A Simple Story is a tale about love and loss. Told through the memories of an unnamed old man, traversing through the many dreamscapes not only tells his story, but is a direct reflection of his feelings during those moments. While Piccolo Studio tells its tale well, there was never a moment where I felt empathy, which is a problem when that seems to be the goal.
There are a total of ten chapters in Arise: A Simple Story which chronologically go through key memories in the old man’s life. This ranges from incredibly joyous moments to terrible crippling tragedies. Piccolo Studio really does tell a great story here. Arise never feels like its pandering to people’s emotions; it is telling its own tale, with every moment of triumph and heartbreak earned.
“While Piccolo Studio tells its tale well, there was never a moment where I felt empathy, which is a problem when that seems to be the goal.”
While the story itself is great, I never felt attached to the old man or his story in the slightest. The story does delve into some heavy topics, but it failed to strum any of my heartstrings. Every memory presented is all-encompassing. By that, I mean anyone can play this and find something to relate to. But because it is approachable, it lacks personality, so I never found myself really feeling any strong emotions while I was playing Arise: A Simple Story.
That can also be said about Arise: A Simple Story‘s gameplay. As this is a narrative-driven platforming adventure, the emphasis is on the story, not the gameplay. You will simply traverse each one of the old man’s memories by running, jumping, and using the time-altering mechanic. This unique mechanic will do different things depending on the level. For example, using it during the third chapter will push two cliffsides together or apart so you can make it across the ravine, while using it during the fourth chapter will allow you to use lightning to make evil shadows disappear and clear the path.
Because the purpose of the time-altering mechanic essentially changes after each chapter, it never really gets old. It also brings a puzzle-solving element to Arise: A Simple Story, so you aren’t mindlessly walking from Point A to Point B to inevitably hit the next story beat. That said, the puzzles are incredibly simple, lacking the creativity of other puzzle-platformers. So in a way, you are kind of mindlessly walking from Point A to Point B, just with a few obstacles along the way. Which isn’t bad, it just feels uninspired.
“Arise: A Simple Story is presented in a minimalistic cartoonish art style that is really charming.”
Where I think the emotions presented in Arise are best portrayed is in the environments. When you look at the dreamscape of the second chapter, which tells the story from the old man’s childhood, it’s very bright and colorful. However, when you get to a later chapter which deals with a very heavy topic, the environment is very brown, covered in thorns, and set ablaze. Both are perfect artistic representations of the emotions that the old man was feeling, and are some of the best examples of when Arise‘s story lands.
The environmental storytelling is so great because of the art direction. Arise: A Simple Story is presented in a minimalistic cartoonish art style that is really charming. It’s almost as if someone elegantly crafted these dreamy environments and player models with Play-Doh, and how the camera pans during certain moments makes it all the more beautiful.
While Arise is brimming with alluring setpieces, it often hinders its gameplay, even for how simple the game is. There is a perspective issue within many of the chapters that will have you falling to your death. This was especially true during sections that had floating platforms: it became aggravating, especially when the entire experience is pretty easy and story-driven.
“While Arise is brimming with alluring setpieces, it often hinders its gameplay, even for how simple the game is.”
Besides its art direction, another facet of Arise: A Simple Story I appreciate is how well it performs. Throughout my time with the game, I came across very few technical hiccups. Playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro, it seemed to keep a steady 60 frames-per-second without a hitch. There was one time, during chapter five, where I fell through a platform, which was pretty frustrating. But all-in-all, my time with the game was never really hindered by its performance. It’s kind of nice, considering how often games seem to be unoptimized at launch nowadays.
Arise: A Simple Story mixes its narrative-driven adventure with puzzle-platforming in some ways that can be deemed successful. The time-altering mechanic gives the game some variety throughout its four to six-hour runtime, never overstaying its welcome. Paired with its beautiful art direction and well-told story, there is definitely a reason to pick up Piccolo Studio’s new game. However, there isn’t any facet of Arise: A Simple Story that strikes deeper emotional chords; it just lacks any personality. In turn, it does make it very approachable with themes that are easy to understand. You may not need any tissues as you endure the old man’s tale, but if you’re into narrative-driven adventures, Arise: A Simple Story might be for you.