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Large spoilers for the end of What Remains of Edith Finch

Butch:

Well, that certainly was different.

I was wondering, as I did it, why the cemetery bit, which Meatball said did feel like endgame, was there, in the middle. I think it was because we shifted themes/metaphors at that point.

Food certainly took a back seat, as did the idea of “living life” or what makes life interesting. From here forward, it really became about people trying to find human connections and either failing or being failed by them.

Sam tries to use hunting to connect with his daughter (she doesn’t want to) and it kills him.
Gregory’s parents try to connect (the phone call) and it kills Gregory, and, eventually, their marriage.
Lewis tries to connect with some sort of better reality and a queen and all that, and it leads to his death/suicide.
The kite kid’s dad wants to marry another woman, which causes the distraction that killed kite kid. Who shall be nameless cuz I forget his name.
Edith tries to connect with her child and dies in childbirth? I think? Did she? What was that?
And Milton tries for something better and winds up a lonely king in a different game.

What’s that? Different game you say?

https://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2017/04/26/what-remains-of-edith-finch-easter-egg-is-canon/

Yup. That shit’s canon.

NOW LET’S DISCUSS!

First, using Milton for a weird crossover that makes no sense makes no sense. Milton’s disappearance is something they lead with, for crissakes, and the payoff is a tie in to another game that has very little to do with this one? I….don’t get it. Are they going to connect these in a sequel or is this the most precious, self aware bullshit in gaming history?

Second, did I miss something? Specifically, Dawn’s tale? I didn’t find Dawn’s story, and yet, there she was colored in on the family tree post credits. I miss something?

Third, as pissed off as I am about the Milton thing, this game did as good a job of using gameplay to affect mood and theme as anything I’ve ever played. Gregory playing in the tub when you know something awful will happen? Amazing. (If harrowing. Really game, a baby?) The Lewis thing? About as perfect as it gets. Did you keep doing the fish? I found myself doing the fish, almost automatically, to get them out of the way of the story, just like Lewis would have. I mean, shit. Talk about putting the player in the head of the character. Perfect stuff.

Fourth….I got questions. What did Dawn mean when she said “It’s because of your stories that my children are dead?” They didn’t all kill themselves cuz of the stories. What was that? Are we left thinking there’s some mystical shit? If there is some mystical shit that Dawn was afraid of, why’d she give Edith the key and send her back? This was not resolved. Or was it in the room I missed? And if it WAS Edie’s stories, why is Edie killing everyone, and why did Dawn stay with her that long if Dawn knew?

I will say that if there was some mystical shit tie in to the Unfinished Swan or some other canon universe, I’ll be kinda pissed. This game should’ve stood on its own.

Feminina:

Yeah, there was a shift in emphasis. And then that semi-positive ending, like “let’s just cherish the time we have and the amazing fact that we’re here at all…” that was her advice to her kid (and yeah, I think she died in childbirth), but how did she really get that from these stories? Unless she’s meant to have taken that lesson from the stories by using them as cautionary tales, like “don’t get caught up in fear of monsters or obsessed by imaginary worlds to the point that you forget to be grateful for the fact that you’re alive”?

Another thing I was kind of puzzled by was how open-ended the question was left regarding the house itself and whether it’s some sort of conscious entity. At the beginning, you definitely got that sense. “When I was little the house made me uneasy in a way I couldn’t put into words, but now that I’m 17, I can: I was afraid of the house.” (Which is actually not that hard to put into words.)

And regarding Milton, “It was as if the house had swallowed him up.” (Which, as it turns out, is apparently true.)

Or, “they had to add more rooms to the house, but it was used to that.”

There was this whole underlying suggestion that maybe the house was an integral part of the family curse–Odin brought it from Norway and it sank on the way, but they rebuilt it…so it both lurks offshore AND still surrounds them. Dawn certainly felt that way: you don’t seal off a bunch of rooms unless you think that they have some kind of power. And, as you say, she thought that the stories had killed her children.

And yet, there are perfectly logical explanations for most of these deaths, so maybe the stories are just stories. Except that there IS something mystical going on because as you say Milton went into the Unfinished Swan and we do not have a logical explanation for that. Unless it’s that we’re insane to believe that the Unfinished-Swan-verse is a real thing, and in fact the Unfinished Swan tie-in is just a much larger version of the fictional stories surrounding all the deaths, and the truth is that he wandered off and fell in the ocean or something. Like, instead of a comic book or some camera snapshots, Milton’s disappearance story involves an entirely separate game, that was not actually about him?

I did love the juxtaposition of Lewis’ imagined world with the fish. Like you, I just kept moving them along, because otherwise they piled up on the screen, and having that be the mechanic as you went through his story was kind of brilliant.

I think maybe we didn’t see Dawn’s death (or Edith’s) because they weren’t in the house or its surroundings when they died? They got away, kind of. Even though they obviously did both still die. But then, so do we all at some point.

Which maybe is another aspect of that final message: it’s all very well to look for meaning in the stories of peoples’ deaths, and to build a legend that says they all died because of a curse, but the truth is that everyone dies, period. Focusing on their deaths reduces everything else about them to clues pointing at a curse, when instead we could be remembering the things they did with the rest of their lives (though in the cases where they were children or babies, there is admittedly less to go on).

Maybe that’s what Edith–who is also dying very young–is trying to say. Stop obsessing over the stories of the deaths. Maybe she’s saying this even without being completely clear whether or not there is a curse. Even if we ARE cursed, she might be thinking, we can still focus on being glad to be alive as long as we can.

Hm.

Butch:

I’m….not entirely sure where she got that about being grateful. Maybe she saw past the “curse” in a sense by considering that, despite all of these rather grisly deaths, they all died doing something they loved? Maybe? I mean, if you go through, Molly: being an animal and having fun. Sam: Hunting. Lewis: In his royal fantasy. Gregory: Playing in the tub. Barbara: Being a scare queen star again. Flying a Kite. Finally seeing the sky. This idea that there was fleeting joy in each one. Maybe. But you’re right: it was a strange way to end it.

Yeah, that was kinda a dropped ball, the stories killing children. The house is even the damn load screen. Cuz you’re right: the house itself isn’t that scary. It’s weird, but you’d think that Edith really means “I was afraid of all the stories that the house contained,” which is not the same of being afraid of the house itself.

Even the rooms: You’re right, they didn’t really warrant sealing, and it’s unclear why Dawn decided to seal them all at once. They really were just there to be all “Here’s some background for the story you’re gonna play….look he liked astronauts! Look, she was a movie star!” There wasn’t even a “She sealed them to preserve the memory of the lost relatives” or anything.

Yeah, plot hole.

Milton…I….don’t know. I just don’t know. An entirely separate game in an entirely separate style. They even went out of the way to heighten that contrast. This whole game is colorful, vibrant, detailed, cluttered. Swan is not. So when you get to Milton’s place and it’s all black and white, that was striking. I even said “Waaaaaaiiiiiiit……really?” And not in an OMG REALLY THAT IS SO COOL! way. No, in an “They’re really gonna do this, huh?” way.

It seems pretentious as fuck. It was completely unnecessary and it jarred.

Especially for such a big plot point!

Lewis and the fish, though, totally brilliant. This game did have its flashes of brilliance. More than a lot of games do.

I can see that..just be glad of the time we have. It’s telling that the only story we see where someone has any real regret, any real “Man, I wasted so much time” is Walter, the one who wasn’t doing anything fun until the very end. Everyone else was really enjoying themselves (or trying to) until boom. Walter regretted not focusing on being alive.

Which is good stuff! That makes sense! But it’s undermined by the stupid Unfinished Swan thing. Once you know that there’s some magic paintbrush that can open doors to other weird dimensions, then all of a sudden finding meaning and metaphor from these human stories gets tricky, cuz maybe they aren’t just human stories? Had the game just said “These are just some weird human stories,” then fine. Better game.

Whole thing, though, doesn’t explain Edie. Why’d she live? How’d she avoid the curse? Is she evil? If you take Dawn at her word, she’s a mass murderer of her own family. Why? They left that alone.

Which means we have rather unsatisfying ends to both Milton’s story and Edie’s, and they were too important to leave like that.

Oh! Wait! Shit! On the magical shit!

It’s established in Swan that the paintbrush, the magic paintbrush, came from the King’s (Milton’s) mother! That would be Dawn. She, Dawn, who pained the titular Unfinished Swan. And that the hero of Swan is the king’s son, which means he’s a Finch.

Which means Dawn had a magic paintbrush this whole time? Like….

They shouldn’t have gone there. Them going there really fucked up a lot of stuff. It would have been so much better if we didn’t have to think about all this in THIS GAME.

Too fancy, game. Too fancy.

Oh, never mind. He didn’t get the brush from Dawn. Or did he? I don’t know. Google stuff. I’m confused.

And that pisses me off. I shouldn’t be googling the Unfinished Swan for lore. I should be discussing themes and shit in this game, which had them.

Feminina:

So…according to Wikipedia, Monroe (the boy in Unfinished Swan) got the paintbrush from his mother. And when he goes into that world chasing the swan, it does turn out that his mother was the queen there for a while, and he’s the king’s son.

So…if Milton was the king, then yes, Monroe would be a Finch. But it’s not clear whose paintbrush it was–not Dawn’s. Maybe Milton’s if Monroe’s mother took it from him when she left?

But I agree–why are we discussing all this when we’re trying to talk about the game we actually just finished?

It’s weirdly reminiscent of RDR2, where we wound up having to discuss RDR at the end. Stop referring to other games in unnecessary ways, games! You just confuse things.

Butch:

GAH! You’re right!

But at least RDR was a sequel/prequel, in the same world, with the same characters, and the same gameplay. Shit, Swan wasn’t even a similar game to this in terms of gameplay, narrative style, nothing.

(Though did you notice that there was a telescope in this game where Edie would look at the old house every day, and in the Swan there was a telescope where you could look in and see the king just there and AIEE I’M DOING IT AGAIN!)

This is so different that it would be like finding out that Micah betrayed everyone because of The Pattern.

And shit, here we are all about food imagery and them dying doing what they loved and whether this was optimistic or pessimistic (I still can’t tell) and now we’re googling a different game.

Sigh.

And I did like it! There were moments that’ll stick with me, and moments of sheer gameplay brilliance! We like to talk on how games tell stories in ways that only games can, and this game had a BUNCH of those! The comic book, the baby in the tub (really game? A baby?), Lewis’ story (holy SHIT Lewis’ story)…. so much good. We should have spent the whole day on that, but they had to go and stumble.

All the same, certainly worth a download.

Feminina:

Absolutely worth a download.

And yeah, the baby. That was a low blow, we don’t like when babies get hurt. And yet, it…worked OK. Somehow they made a baby drowning in the bathtub…almost pleasant. The dancing toys, the music. And here (as with Gus and the kite), very interesting use of text, with the letters all jumbled up and then unfolding into legible words when you interacted with them correctly.

And the game mechanics there, where the way you played was just kind of flailing around and then things happened, and I felt like I KIND OF was doing it, but wasn’t sure exactly how to achieve the thing I wanted to achieve–that was very nicely evocative of what I imagine life might be like for a baby. So nicely done there.

But also, the baby drowned in the bathtub, and that’s horrible. Really horrible. And then you think how this story came is based on the letter written by the father, talking about how the baby was always laughing for no reason adults could tell, and saying “I wonder what he saw,” and you think “that whole scene was probably wishful thinking on the part of parents who wanted to imagine he died having fun with his toys instead of in a desperate struggle to keep his head above water.”

Damn it, game, that’s harsh.

Though on a lighter note, I kind of loved the ‘chores’ written on the blackboard: “Dawn: clean up room. Gus: do homework and rake leaves,” or whatever, and then “Greg: be a baby.”

Be a baby, Greg.

As to the question of “is anything supernatural going on,” there WAS that moment where the mom definitely turned off the water, and then the animated toy frog turned it back on. So (assuming that actually happened, because again, our access to this this story is based on the parent’s letter, not on the baby’s own telling) that was a thing.

Hm.

Butch:

Very harsh. Especially all the happy music when you know he’s gonna die, MAKING YOU BE THE ONE TO TURN ON THE WATER AGAIN (SERIOUSLY game, what did I do to you?) and then swimming DOWN THE DRAIN. I did not want to do those things.

Game. Dude.

And see, I assumed that was something from a child’s perspective, that really he was playing and turned the water on himself. Molly wasn’t really a monster, after all. It was pretend. In her head. All the kid ones were like that. Fanciful. The adult ones were the realistic ones.

I should say….

I assumed that UNTIL THE DAMN SUGGESTION of the supernatural! Greg’s scene made sense as the playing and pretend of a baby just fine on its own. We should not have to be all “Hey…..maybe it WAS the frog….” because of a stupid suggestion of the supernatural! It WORKED, it ALL worked, when we thought we were looking at the world from the person’s perspective, be that a baby, a hungry girl, an older, lonely man or someone with mental illness. It was good that way. It made sense that way. So putting all this swan stuff in just muddies it.

Feminina:

Oh, it’s totally true. We can explain the water turning on without assuming the frog actually did it. As you say, it’s really only the supernatural addition of the Unfinished Swan that made me even bring it up.

Because that makes us question everything! Maybe the house/family really is cursed! Maybe Molly really turned into a monster! Maybe crazed monster fans ate all of Barbara except for her ear!

I don’t know…maybe they did that on purpose because they WANT us to be left thinking “there’s probably a logical explanation for this but what if it’s wrong?”

Maybe they believe there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. It’s puzzling, all right.

Butch:

Maybe that’s what they want, but, if they do, then they’re falling into a trap that all too many potentially great stories fall into these days (he said, given that Game of Thrones is everywhere): They mistake puzzling for thought provoking.

I call this “Lost syndrome,” after the TV show of the same name. Without getting too specific, the first few episodes promised a WHOLE lot of metaphor and character and things that one could ponder, but, very quickly, turned into something where, after the episode, the “What do you think that means?” question wasn’t answered by “I think that they’re talking about being lost around those closest to us, despite…blog blog blog” but “DUDE maybe that means that statue was built by the Others can you believe it if it was OMG.”

See Game of Thrones (which I don’t watch, but I watched season one). Should be boiling over with themes, right? Different houses, different styles, political metaphor…but all I hear about is OMG can you believe so and so banged/killed/both so and so? OMG do you think so and so is going to bang/kill/both so and so next week?

That is not thought provoking. That is not themeage.

Thought provoking is what we were doing before. But anything that ends with anything even close to “Was it REAL? Was it GHOSTS? Was it a DREAM? YOU figure it out!” isn’t thought provoking.

Don’t get me wrong: It may be fun. Lost stayed fun for a while, in its way. Maybe Game of Thrones is just fun and hey, that’s ok. But if you’re trying to be thought provoking and you wind up with “So…was it REAL?” then you’ve provoked the wrong thought. Yet, so many, too many, writers think that’s the thought they should provoke.

And this game was so close to getting it right! It was JUST that one inclusion that made you write:

Because that makes us question everything! Maybe the house/family really is cursed! Maybe Molly really turned into a monster! Maybe crazed monster fans ate all of Barbara except for her ear!

Which is Lost syndrome at its finest. Or worst.

Feminina:

Yeah…I think you’re right. It would have been better if there’d been a logical explanation for everything, and the final message came down to something like “maybe in our lives, let’s focus on the part where we’re alive.”

It was fun, though. And had a lot of good little bits. And very pretty, lots of cool different style and design choices.

Worth the download.

Butch:

Very much so. Certainly solid bloggage for a game of its length.

I’ll load up AC:O today or tomorrow. I was too busy today cleaning the garage. Now I have to spend some time coughing up black gunk.

Why’d I buy a house? And forget to buy a dust mask?

 

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