In all the high profile new releases of last month, there were naturally a sizable number of releases that sadly failed to have a spotlight shone on them. Today we're correcting that, with a release, which is one of the most creatively surreal and bizarrely enthralling indie games of the last several years - The Edgelands.
The story is ultimately one about a journey, as you control a woman crossing through the run-down and bizarrely fantastical world surrounding her home. As a core narrative it's fairly loose to be sure, but its strength instead lies in individual moments, as you uncover bizarre puzzles and bump into ever stranger individuals with every passing moment. Some serve to actively question the reality of all you are seeing, while others help to break up and branch the story with certain choices; a very welcome addition as it allows the game a solid amount of replay value.
The visuals and musical score are where the true beauty of the game lies. While the flavour text certainly helps to fill in certain blanks and offers substance to the world, the macabre beauty of the minimal artwork and animations keeps you hooked. Nothing here seems wholly right, and even the basic movement seems somehow off, making you constantly question the world around you. What's more, there's always something going on about you so, while it might delve into point and click territory more than a few times, there's always something new and interesting for you to bump into. Thanks to this, it never feels as if you are merely filling out a list of objectives, and instead you're doing more to change the environment around you.
Unfortunately, The Edgelands' greatest strength doubles as its weakness as, with little in the way of additional mechanics or content, it is difficult to become hooked to start with. The visual storytelling, implications and surreal presentation all give the sense of a world twisted beyond recognition, but without an overarching tale or the ability to build upon certain points, the player is left to make up the context behind journey for themselves. This can sometimes work - just look at Limbo - but The Edgelands lacks the more physics-based mechanics to help balance out this element.
Ultimately if you're a fan of Kentucky Route Zero or games which hinge upon blending surrealist visuals with the more rustic or burned out elements of life, The Edgelands is definitely for you. It might embrace a minimalist artistic style, but there's more than enough substance behind the art to keep you interested until the credits roll.
THE EDGELANDS / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: MARSHLIGHT SOFTWARE / PLATFORMS: MICROSOFT WINDOWS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW