I previewed Blue Entropy Studios' debut title, Reaching for Petals, earlier this year, and I was very impressed with what I saw.
The thirty-minute demo was a feast for the eyes. Its gorgeous graphics blew me away, and its narrative seemed to be building up to something intriguing. At least, that's the impression it left me with. Reaching for Petals released in full last week, so I was eager to continue my journey and find out what else was waiting for me. Unfortunately, not a lot.
The full running time of Reaching for Petals is a little over an hour. Even for a walking simulator of its ilk, that's pretty short. Having already played the 30 minute demo, it meant I was already half way through the game. It left me a little deflated, to say the least. But that was just my experience; if you're coming in fresh, it may only be an hour long, but there's still a lot of good stuff packed into that running time.
Reaching for Petals is most like Dear Esther in terms of gameplay; you simply walk. There are no puzzles to solve, besides a couple of instances of very basic platforming where you're required to jump across a stream or climb up a small pile of rocks. You walk along a set path, and as you do, the narrative will be read out to you.
The game has a beautiful narrative, for sure, but it left me wanting more. The punch of the final chapter didn't hit as hard as intended; mainly because much of the dialogue was a little too vague and poetic rather than just getting straight to the point. The story it weaves is undoubtedly a love story, and there are plenty of powerful lines in there, but at times it can be hard to truly grasp the significance of every word. Regardless, there's enough to hold your interest, and coupled with masterful narration of the script, it really helps to bring the experience to life. Combine that with Reaching for Petals' breathtaking visuals, and it's a tour de force.
Those visuals are surely the highlight of the game. Taking you through luscious forests, snowy hilltops and mysterious caves, almost every moment that Reaching for Petals is on your screen really is mesmerising. It's hard to believe that the team behind the game is so small; the level of detail in the graphics surpasses most major AAA releases. I guess that's why the game is so short — it's not hard to see just how much painstaking work has gone into creating this experience.
The downside to the visuals, though, is in the short interior sections. At the end of each chapter, you'll find yourself taken back to a house. While there's nothing particularly wrong, the visuals just don't pop out like they do everywhere else. Luscious greenery is exchanged for a generic, blocky household, and it feels a little jarring.
Ultimately, because of Reaching for Petals' short running time, it feels more like a tech demo than an actual, fully-formed video game experience. It's more of a showcase of "just look what the Unreal Engine can do!" than anything else. I guess, being Blue Entropy Studios' first game, in some ways it is a tech demo. The team has demonstrated their incredible ability, and it leaves me excited for what may come next with a little more experience under their belt. But while Reaching for Petals may be impressive visually, there's just not enough there to make it truly worthwhile.