A strange and wonderful journey.
There’s something special about an indie game. Quality aside, playing through a true indie game transports you to a place crafted by hope, inspiration, innovation, and a pure love of gaming. For me, they’re typically games that somehow harken nostalgia and remind me of my favorite days of gaming. Iris.Fall is one such indie game, with its pure and unique aesthetics and unusual presentation. It quickly won over my imagination and fed into my nostalgia – but is it a game worth playing? Nostalgia means little in critical assessments.
Iris.Fall is described as a “dark and gothic indie adventure puzzler” and features a story about a girl named Iris, who awakens in a rundown theater after a strange dream. A mysterious black cat lurches between light and shadows, beckoning Iris on. As she makes her way through various puzzles, she begins to feel like everything may be connected. It’s certainly not the first time a premise like such has been melded into games, but its execution is solid.
Gameplay in Iris.Fall sees you controlling Iris with the standard WASD controls. You use the mouse in order to click on interactable objects and solve puzzles, so the game felt like a mixture of a point-and-click adventure and puzzler. The clever piece of this puzzler is the game’s masterful use of light and shadows to create some neat puzzles. While none of the puzzlers are overly challenging, they bring a sense of accomplishment as you finish each. My biggest issue with Iris.Fall, however, is that it clearly took liberties with the gameplay probably no one remembers from Contrast, a PS4 game released during the dawn of the PS4 era. In Contrast, you cast yourself into shadows and use shadows to solve puzzles and make your way across various areas, which is almost identical to Iris.Fall.
Visually, Iris.Fall is a beautifully rendered piece of art. Its black and white tones fit its Alice in Wonderland sense of unusualness, and it also works to highlight the vast differences between the light and shadows. While the entire game isn’t purely black-and-white, the remainder of the colors either feel toned down or work as a shock – something that equally sets the stage. The entire game feels like a black-and-white comic book, I suppose, which works in its favor. Every new stage feels a bit dramatic, but it works like few other games. Shadows are over exaggerated but filled with exact details. On my rig (that’s now about four or five years old), the game runs smoothly and looks beautiful – unlike many other experiences. The visuals and gameplay are smooth and tight, and I didn’t experience any technical issues. In other words, the game is more polished than most of its contemporaries.
As you explore the inner workings of Iris.Fall, you’ll notice the subtle sounds. There isn’t a big soundtrack like one you might imagine in a game that compares itself to Alice in Wonderland. Instead, a boastful composition is replaced with subdued tones and the sound effects of gears in motion or projectors humming. As I’ve noted in numerous reviews with excellent sound direction, this approach nails home that final ‘touch’ that sets a game apart from its competition.
When looking back at my time with Iris.Fall – a time mixed with multiple illnesses – I have nothing but fond memories. The art direction and visual style really appealed to me, and it’ll be something that I feel nostalgia for in the future. The sound direction matches the atmosphere set by the visuals, creating an immersive experience. Gameplay works as planned, and the puzzles, while not too difficult, are still rewarding. Iris.Fall currently sits at $11.99 on Steam, and it’s a price worth spending on a game with its only notable flaws being its strong resemblance to Contrast. While its length may leave many wanting, the $12 price tag seems like a reasonable price. I’ve played much longer games that lacked the same amount of value as Iris.Fall, and I enjoyed those far less, too.