First off, I want to start off this review by saying: thank you. The very fact that you’re interested in a new and exclusive Vita game in A Rose in the Twilight so late into the Vita’s literal twilight, indicates that you’re a hardcore dedicated fan of the handheld system.
You’ve most likely wanted to see this platform succeed and for that I’m pleased to say that for doing as such, publisher NIS America has rewarded you with an inherently atmospheric 2D puzzle platformer. Don’t be fooled by A Rose in the Twilight’s title, you won’t catch sight of any pale and moody vampire teenagers who glisten in the sun. Rather, you’ll experience an intrinsically bleak tale of friendship and discovery that boasts the potential to stay with you long after its puzzles are solved and forgotten.
Originally released back in 2016 for Eastern audiences, the ethereal stylistic threads of Nippon Ichi Software’s Yomawari: Night Alone can instantly be felt when first starting your journey in A Rose in the Twilight. Like Yomawari, their latest game centres on a somewhat cute female protagonist you wouldn’t consider out of place in a chibi Final Fantasy game, tasked with undergoing a journey of discovery, who in turn ends up discovering herself.
The difference this time however (other than the more simplified sense of perspective), is that instead of travelling in search of your companion, you have one accompany you, resulting in some moderately welcome “scratch your head” puzzle platforming sections. Whereas in some other games, a lack of travelling alone might hinder the possible creep factor, A Rose in the Twilight understands that placing you in situations without information and out of context equally is able to do just the trick.
Setting you in the role of Rose who begins her journey needing to break free from a lowly castle dungeon, it isn’t too long before you discover that she has an acute connection to something very unusual: blood. This acts as A Rose in the Twilight’s core puzzle conceit throughout the entire 10 to 12-hour adventure, very much in line with the game’s overall morbid tone and mood.
Various times upon exploring the castle will you be required to embody and transfer this blood into an inanimate object, eventually giving it mass for the purposes of progressing to the next section. This, combined with the consistent character-switching most scenarios require between a petite Rose and her strong and steady Golem, serves as the basis for many euphoric moments of satisfaction after solving a puzzle.
Rose is light, agile, and is the only character out of the two able to transfer blood. Her giant Golem companion, on the other hand, can navigate through the seemingly impenetrable thorns, carry and/or throw Rose to safety when the situation demands, and even lift the red objects Rose brings ‘life’ to. This push-and-pull of character abilities helps keep A Rose in the Twilight’s puzzle platforming always fresh and fun to solve, even if the surroundings around you intentionally never are.
Speaking of A Rose in the Twilight’s world, it’s not uncommon to continually experience a frequent sense of dread and foreboding when carrying out your tasks, emphasised further by the game’s very minimalist musical score and sense of narrative. Throughout the game you’ll encounter what are known as “blood memories” which somewhat reveal a time before Rose’s waking, playing out in the form of wordless yet beautifully artistic cutscenes. Put simply, there’s a minimal story present here for those that seek it, yet it’s never forced for those who prefer environmental storytelling which A Rose in the Twilight does so well.
A Rose in the Twilight is best described on the surface as being an undeniably bleak, somewhat charming, but consistently creative 2D puzzle platforming experience. While definitely glazed in a coat of many morbid and gory sensibilities, the game can be sometimes harsh without ever feeling unfair – and that’s a difficult balancing act to pull off. I’m happy to see that so far into the Vita’s lifespan we continue to get rather experimental and unique games such as A Rose in the Twilight – it’s undeniably a treat for platforming fans, weak of stomach or not.