Fall of Porcupine Review – Big Day In A Small Town

    Title: Fall of Porcupine
    Developer: Critical Rabbit
    Release Date: June 15, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
    Genre: Narrative Adventure, Simulation

You’ve heard of Scrubs, right? It was a long-running American sitcom about the life of a newly-minted medical doctor, navigating his new career and the perils of the American healthcare system, taking a sometimes-harsh look at what it’s actually like to be in the medical industry. It’s also the clearest inspiration for the debut title from studio Critical Rabbit, Fall of Porcupine.

Taking further influence from titles like Night in the Woods, the game tells a realistic, grounded story through anthropomorphic animal characters that nonetheless all behave similarly to humans. The player controls Finley, a recent big-city graduate beginning his career in the small, remote town of Porcupine when disaster strikes during his first week on the job.

A memory care patient takes off his sensors and goes missing in the hospital, ending up in the disused fifth-floor ward. When Finley comes upon him, a pile of abandoned boxes and junk falls onto the two of them, and he saves the patient at the expense of suffering some head trauma.

Three weeks later, he’s finally recovered enough to resume his job, and after a very vivid dream, he wakes up, and we begin to take him through his day. He has to walk to work, as the bus is known to be unreliable, and this is where the first considerable strength of Fall of Porcupine begins to shine.

Fall of Porcupine SS1


While the visual presentation is nothing especially new, the town itself is delightful to walk through and explore. This is helped by the relaxing, ambient soundtrack that evokes the autumnal season in which the game takes place. I also found myself sweeping every inch of the town at every opportunity I had, even though there was no real in-game benefit to doing so.

It’s fun to talk to the characters daily, slowly learning more about them as Finley becomes a part of the small community. I honestly looked forward to my daily discussions with the solitary fisher down by the river, the friendly unhoused walrus who greeted me outside my door, and the kindly old lady eager to tell me about the area’s history any chance I gave her, among others.

The eclectic cast makes Porcupine feel genuine, and some of them you even end up seeing as patients to be treated later. I will say something later in this review that hinges on this point, so I will spell it out clearly here – I was invested in these characters and loved learning more about them.

Fall of Porcupine SS2

Once Finley arrives at the hospital each day, he’s given three patients to check in on and treat, accomplished through various brief minigames, some of which work and some of which kind of work. None of them stand out as being especially good. Still, I do want to highlight the ones I struggled with – the injection game doesn’t teach you how to actually find the spot you’re meant to put the needle in, so I got a B in it every single time, the scissor game actually required me to use an external keyboard as my laptop isn’t capable of registering three adjacent keys at once, and the stethoscope game gets extremely difficult long before the others do. I also had several moments where the prescription game would give me a B score even if I’d done everything correctly.

As far as I could tell, my performance in these games didn’t have any actual outcome on the story, which makes some sense given the linear scope of Fall of Porcupine, but it is rather disappointing that the primary responsibility the player is given doesn’t affect anything if you do it poorly.

Another recurring issue comes up most consistently in the hospital but is present in numerous other places. The game is, on a technical level, a bit of a mess. I’m not letting this affect my score too much because it could be addressed later in a patch. Still, I experienced consistent frame drops in larger areas despite the low recommended specs falling well under what my laptop is capable of and occasional bugs that forced me to restart the game, made more frustrating by the lack of a manual save. As the game continued, I noticed somewhat frequent dialogue bugs and typos, where dialogue bubbles would repeat or end without punctuation.

Fall of Porcupine SS3

After each day in the hospital, depending on where the story is, you may be given a chance to walk home or simply be placed on your street with the option to end the day. The town’s atmosphere at night is potentially even more beautiful, with Finley generally being alone as he walks through the open fields and under the streetlights of the town square, again to a lovely ambient soundtrack.

The story progresses in a way that’s honestly pretty predictable if you’ve seen the first season of Scrubs. However, the added tension of the townspeople’s growing discontent towards the hospital adds spice to the proceedings that start pointing it toward the political messaging with which the game is being advertised.

My major issue with this is that the way things eventually play out in such a linear, story-based game doesn’t really sit right with me. I don’t know that the Critical Rabbit team goes in hard enough on the shortfalls of the system, instead largely blaming the hospital’s problems on one person, and the last hour of Fall of Porcupine feels like it’s leading up to a conclusion…and then the finale doesn’t really come.

Fall of Porcupine SS4

I mentioned just how attached I was getting to the characters because the game doesn’t ultimately resolve a single one of their subplots. The ending is emotional, but there isn’t a falling action to follow the climax – the drama ratchets really high up, and then the credits roll. I really can’t stress how quickly the escalation happens, and it feels like the bold choice of where to end the narrative is a risk that doesn’t pay off in this particular case.

The thing with sitcoms is that they’re implied to keep going unless we’re told otherwise. If a show ends on a cliffhanger, the audience expects that unless the series is canceled, there’s more to come, and eventually, things will end on some kind of satisfactory note. If not, they’ll be left speculating what will happen next. When placed next to its influences, Fall of Porcupine is a mostly-pleasant time despite technical shortcomings, but the ending feels like the network brought down the axe a few episodes too early.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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