Title: A Fold Apart
Developer: Lightning Rod Games
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Lightning Rod Games
For those who don’t know me, I am a cheesy sap of a man who loves corny romance stories and gets teary-eyed in every Disney and Pixar film. That is why I was intrigued by Lightning Rod Games’ A Fold Apart, which looks like what you would get if that animated short before every Pixar film were a puzzle game. Through my roughly 4 hour playthrough, I found the entire experience to be a creative piece of artwork with mediocre systems.
A Fold Apart is a puzzle game that stars two characters struggling with their long-distance relationship. The story involves one character living in the countryside as a teacher while the other works in the city as an architect. The architect is in the city on contract, trying to pursue their dream of working on a big building project and is initially encouraged by their partner.
This, however, grows to become a strain on their relationship as they both struggle internally about juggling their individual wants while trying to maintain their relationship. Gameplaywise, you, as the player, have to fold, flip, and rotate the screen like it was a piece of paper to help the characters move from one point of the screen to the other. It’s a mechanic that works but ultimately falls short as the folds of the gameplay experience don’t always match up.
A Fold Apart would definitely go on my list of games to convince your friend that videogames are an art form. It cleverly combines its game mechanics with the audio and visuals to support the story, and the internal emotional conflict each of the characters is facing.
When one of the characters felt frustrated at the difficulty and amount of work piling up caused by their long-distance relationship, the emotion was reinforced by the gameplay, which had me tediously climb stone platforms one by one to progress the narrative. When one of the characters felt conflicted and confused, the game introduced the mechanic of rotating the screen and turning things upside down to help portray the feelings of the character. Additionally, it seemed like the closer the characters got to a revelation in their relationship, the easier the puzzles became, which I found to be an excellent addition.
That being said, while A Fold Apart is a charming piece of artwork, it doesn’t hold up as well when I think about whether it was fun to play. While I enjoyed the story of this couple struggling with their long-distance relationship and the creativity of pairing the game’s mechanics to highlight what was happening, I felt that the puzzle portions only got in the way.
When it came to the puzzles, I appreciated the unique take of folding the screen like a piece of origami paper to navigate your character from point A to point B. Still, when playing, the controls frequently felt clunky and unresponsive. Climbing on top of blocks was slow and sometimes wouldn’t work unless I perfectly placed the block next to the ledge I was trying to climb. Additionally, when I wanted to undo an action or rotate the page, the game wouldn’t respond to my key presses. This kind of pulled me away from my investment in the story. The story is strong enough on its own, and the puzzles didn’t enhance it the way that it should have.
I do want to mention a couple of features that I found to be neat additions. At the start of the game, you can choose what type of couple you want the story to be about. You can select who you want the orange character to be and who you want the blue character to be. They don’t explicitly state the gender of the characters when you are choosing so you can select whichever characters fit the look that you want.
On top of that, there are parts where the characters are texting each other, and you can sometimes choose the responses and add to the narrative that way. Still, there are moments of gameplay where I was trying to understand why these two were even putting themselves in this position or why they weren’t doing more to see each other. However, that’s kind of the joy of a game that highlights a specific type of relationship and gets you invested in the story. The graphics are also very adorable, even when events start to get a little more emotional. The music also plays a decent role in keeping true to the tone of the narrative.
A Fold Apart is creative and bright, but it falls short on the execution of its own mechanics. The narrative is what will capture your attention as you go on a journey with these two love-starved characters. If you’re looking for an artful adventure, then you’ll find one here as assisting these characters to express their love through unconventional means was a great way to spend an evening.
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