Reaching for Petals Reaches A Bit Too Far
Last month I previewed the newest game from Blue Entropy Studios called Reaching for Petals. Back then I elected that it was by far one of the prettiest games I’d seen this year and I was hopeful that the narrative would live up to the aesthetics. Well, when it came time to issue an official review for the game I’m not ashamed to admit that those desires still held strong. Were they delivered upon?
Well, yes, and also to a great extent, no.
Here’s the thing. Reaching for Petals is certainly gorgeous. Given that it’s a walking simulator one might say that that’s a necessary detail to make the game immersive. It takes great strides (no pun intended) to follow in the footsteps (still not trying to be punny) of games like Dear Esther and Firewatch, a goal that the developers went so far as to state that that was what they had in mind during a Q&A. Having recently played the former, I would say that Reaching for Petals does an okay job of replicating parts of that formula. It ultimately failed, unfortunately, in the narration and the story at large.
Now, these are pretty sizeable chunks of any game. However, the reason I’m not being overly critical is because Ledbetter (CEO at Blue Entropy Studios) said that these were the set goals for Reaching for Petals. Seeing as he has achieved them, it’s hard to fault the developers for actually obtaining this goal. The question is: do these attributes make Reaching for Petals a good game?
The player starts without a glimmer of information smack dab in the center of a wooded area. You have no clue who you are, your name, your gender, or why you are here. This works to add to the mystery of things. However you’re not alone for more than a few seconds when a disembodied voice begins to talk at you. Yes, at you.
The narrator that was one of my primary complaints from the preview makes a return, and he has not been restrained at all. He continues to wax poetically at the player as they traverse this forest of metaphors and analogies, drawing parallels at every segment of imagery. Gradually he begins to give the player snippets of a story in the midst of everything, usually referencing a mysterious lover that the audience knows nothing about.
Over time the tale writes parts of itself in exposition dumps offered to the player. These snippets are offered in between the more scenic levels of the game as the player explores what one can only assume to be the main character’s home.
The player is left reading about the blossoming of young love in terms that would make a writer at the Lifetime Network cringe. Your one reprieve is that you can choose how you interact with the story, but this ultimately alters nothing. These moments are your go betweens for levels, so get used to them.
It’s annoying that for all the narrating that takes place in the game, these snippets of story couldn’t be bothered with. These are arguably the more emotional aspects of the story, but you’re left only to read them as though they were an afterthought instead of essential narrative.
I Can’t Hear You Over The Sound of Everything
Eventually we do get some story from the narrator, which is refreshing. With some context and a new set of visuals with each chapter, Reaching for Petals started to finally look promising.
They still don’t show everything up front, which is understandable. The best the player can figure out is that the main character has likely lost his love. Whether due to a choice of her own or through death remains to be seen. Overtime this becomes clear, but I don’t want to spoil that here.
Reaching for Petals isn’t all bad though. I want to convey that much now. The landscapes, for example, are breathtaking. Someone over at Blue Entropy really knows how to create fantastic scenery. Unfortunately, they need to work a little more at their lighting. At times it was strangely washed out, the first chapter being the most offensive. Environmental assets sometimes had weird load-ins too that gave the impression of the land being a creature out of a John Carpenter film. It wasn’t terrible, just distracting, and a little unsettling.
The music in Reaching for Petals definitely stood out to me, though at times it was equally if not more dramatic than the narrator. I loved the crescendos at points where the map would open up on a beautiful panoramic view of a lake or mountainscape. It really helped the emotions swell so that you could sync up with the narrative of the game. That being said, the music would drown out the narrator sometimes, which made the fact that I couldn’t adjust the volume somewhat problematic.
Regardless, despite some hiccups, the aesthetic of Reaching for Petals was done quite well. Future projects from Blue Entropy should prove to be thoroughly promising.
What a Twist!
The game really started to move south as the conclusion of Reaching for Petals unfolded. The narrative misleads players. Instead of following the hinted story arc, we are given a twist ending. Furthermore, and perhaps the most upsetting is that this twist doesn’t add any depth to the story. It feels like a bait and switch to make up for a lack of storytelling. I don’t say this to be mean, but the fact is that Reaching for Petals would have been a more satisfying experience if it had just continued as expected.
I’m really not sure what Reaching for Petals was supposed to accomplish with this story. If it was a game intended to be more about the journey than the ending, then why the twist ending? If the narrative weren’t so vague I might think that Blue Entropy missed the point of the games it was trying to emulate. A walking sim should be about discovery. Discovery of the land surrounding the player, but more importantly of self discovery whether that be for the player or the player’s character.
Regardless, Reaching for Petals didn’t really do any of that. I didn’t feel enriched after playing this game. I didn’t have emotional pangs, or even empathy for the characters. I honestly felt I’d been cheated out of a good experience.
I’m sad to write that I disliked this game so much. It had so much promise. It looks gorgeous! It operates smoothly, and has a very committed team behind this project. Yet somewhere along the way, Blue Entropy missed their mark. I would love to see future games from them because I honestly feel they’re worth the investment, but I’m afraid this game was not the breakout title they might have been hoping for.
Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Blue Entropy Studios ; Developer: Blue Entropy Studios; Players: 1 ; Released: September 4, 2017 ; ESRB: RP; MSRP:
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Reaching for Petals given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.