We’re sort-of enamoured with Fall of Porcupine, a game that’s far more serious and meaningful than you’d expect for something that casts you as a pigeon. Because, sure, the town of Porcupine might be populated by anthropomorphic animals and animated in an adorable, whimsical art style, but the world of this narrative-driven adventure game has more in common with the real world than initially meets the eye.
Finley, the pigeon you play as, is a junior doctor. And, if you know anything about the healthcare system no matter where in the world you are, you’ll know that junior doctors are overworked and (usually) underpaid. Finley is certainly the former: having moved to the town of Porcupine to take up a new job at St. Ursula Hospital, he’s had practically zero free time to explore the town or make any new friends. He’s a bit lonely, actually. But his patients come first, and his long shifts take up all of his time.
And so, much of your time with Finley in Fall of Porcupine will be spent in St. Ursula, a hospital that’s not quite as grand and illustrious as it may seem on the outside. Its top floor is closed-off and crumbling, it seems rather understaffed (the receptionist is always there, whether you’re checking in for a day shift or a night shift) and some of its staff are, shall we say, less than thrilled about their jobs.
If all of this sounds a little too close to real life for a video game, we think that’s sort-of the point. Fall of Porcupine shines a light on work-life balances, healthcare systems and the struggles of grown-up life in general, in a way that never feels too dry or close to home. We’ve quickly come to care for Finley and while his day-to-day routines may wander slightly into the mundane, we’re getting a big kick out of completing his menial tasks with him.
Each shift at the hospital sees you complete a number of minigames as you check in on patients. Checking someone’s medical notes becomes a game of guess-the-sequence, while administering pills tasks you with balancing numbers. The minigames are excellently designed and are a neat way to present certain in-game activities.
They’re not the main draw of Fall of Porcupine, though. We’ve also had a great time exploring the beautiful town and getting to know its residents. The conversations Finley has with his colleagues and passers-by are insightful and often surprisingly deep, and we’re getting a kick out of seeing friendships blossom. But what’s really intriguing us about Fall of Porcupine is its mysterious undertones. There’s more than meets the eye to this game, and the town it’s set within. And trying to get to the bottom of it is keeping us playing.
We get the impression that not everyone is fully honest with Finley. And St. Ursula certainly has its secrets. You see, the game starts with Finley waking up from a nightmare following an accident he had at work. He found himself in the abandoned top floor ward, and a bump to the head meant he was bed-ridden and out of work for a few days. He’s told that it was merely an accident where some old boxes fell on his head. But Finley vividly remembers seeing blood – a lot of blood…
Fall of Porcupine isn’t at all what we expected, but we’re pleasantly surprised by its serious themes. The juxtaposition between its whimsical art style and its subject matter has provided a breath of fresh air, and unravelling the secrets of Porcupine is proving to be a lot of fun. If you enjoy narrative-driven adventures and slice-of-life dramas – especially ones that offer an air of mystery – this is well worth seeking out.
Fall of Porcupine is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.