Never Too Much Sally Face
I’ve been looking forward to writing this review for a long while now- since reviewing Episode Three in fact. I really wanted to explore more of this world and learn more about the characters. There are few games I’ve played that really compare to this.
Sally Face is an action adventure game, with the art style of a late-nineties/early noughties cartoon and plenty of mystery and puzzles. It follows the story of Sal Fisher, an unfortunate boy with a prosthetic face and a fascination with the paranormal. After moving into an apartment complex with his Dad, he takes it on himself to uncover all the mysteries that surround them- which lead to an adult Sal being arrested and put on trial. All stories within the game are told from the perspective of Sal, defending himself and maintaining his innocence. In the first few episodes, Sal told his story to his therapist. In the third, to a news reporter. Now in episode four, aptly named The Trial, Sal defends himself in court by telling the next part of his story.
Note that as this review focuses on episode four, it may contain spoilers from the first three chapters.
Rather than the teenager we saw in previous chapters, episode four Sal is now a college student. Having moved out of the perpetually haunted Addison Apartments of the first three chapters, he is now living with his friend Todd and Todd’s boyfriend Neil. As with the last chapter, we get to see some really beautiful new locations. There is a short, but beautifully created scene that sees Sal and his friend Larry walking from his new place back to the apartments. It’s a short scene, but the artwork is so beautiful and chilling at the same time.
Having said that, most of the game does still take place inside the apartment complex.
That’s not a bad thing obviously, the building being the main setting of the story, but it would have been nice to see a few new locations. Episode three took place mostly inside Sal’s school, so I figured Episode Four would explore new environments as well. I can’t deny that exploring the apartments got a little tedious.
There are a lot of rooms in Addison Apartments and they all look very similar. It did feel like some of them didn’t serve any purpose. Anyone who’s played Sally Face knows the importance of checking all the rooms and checking everything inside them. It would have been better to have labeled the rooms without clues, characters or anything interesting in them “locked.” It’s true that the game isn’t a big-time investment, but it still felt like going through all the rooms took longer than necessary.
Puzzles Fade with Time
I also couldn’t help but notice that the fourth episode has fewer puzzles than previous ones and fewer riddles. In Sally Face literally everything you see is noteworthy and everything is there for a reason (which I suppose is why we have to go into empty, similar rooms at times. So, we can notice when something isn’t right.) But in Episode Four, these small details don’t seem quite as clever.
For example, in Episode Three you have to find the math teacher’s door code, by looking around the room and considering what the teacher would find easy to remember. It’s not difficult, but it’s interesting. However, to find the code for the shed in Episode Four, you just have to find the note Todd left telling you where the door code was.
I don’t want to be overly critical about this, there are still some great puzzles in Episode Four. One of which I struggled with for a while before realising it was actually painfully simple! I still felt challenged as a player and I still enjoyed the logic behind most of what I had to do. Nothing about the puzzles felt repetitive of previous Episode’s either- which I very much appreciate. It would have been more frustrating if we had to find the same clues.
Behind Sally Face
What I love about Sally Face is how real these characters feel. Okay, so they spend their time hunting ghosts and fighting off a corrupt cult. But behind that are real people going through tough times, who just want to feel safe and happy. Steve Gabry’s take on depression really touched me as a player. Even if I didn’t know Sal’s backstory, I started playing this episode, I would have still felt for him and his daily struggle with his own mental health. It’s so relatable and honestly very emotional.
Despite being a horror game, I’ve never felt like Sally Face aims to scare its audience. But rather, make you think and feel. It takes you on a journey with the characters and fear for them. The atmosphere is always more chilling than scary.
What’s interesting about Episode Four compared to previous episodes, is that a noticed a lot more focus on player choice when it came to the story. There are a few times when you have to choose a conversation option for Sal, which presumably leads to different dialogue paths. However, I don’t think Sally Face needs this. The main reason I see behind the player choice is replay value and Sally Face already has that. I want to play it again after this to experience the story again and find clues I missed the first time around.
I also have to say that I love seeing a game with a gender non-conforming protagonist. Sal identifies as a boy but doesn’t pay any mind to being mistaken as female or his style being notably feminine. In Episode Four he goes without his trademark pigtails, but in a wedding photograph, he’s also seen sporting a different stereotypically feminine hairstyle, with a gender-neutral outfit.
More of Sally’s Face
I know I’ve been more critical of Episode Four than Episode Three, and I’ll honestly say I did enjoy Three more. I enjoyed its puzzles more and its environment. But I still love this game and would thoroughly recommend it.
The detail and atmosphere in this game alone are enough to make it worth playing. The music fits each scene perfectly, and there are small details to every character, such as the way their hair moves or their eyes that makes this game so unbelievably gorgeous. There is something about the art style that makes me feel nostalgic- it just takes me back to so many cartoons and comics I loved as a teenager.
Given this episode’s conclusion, I’m very excited to see what Episode Five brings next year. There are still so many questions that need answering- but I trust Portable Moose to deliver.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Steve Gabry ; Developer: Portable Moose; Players: 1 ; Released: November 30, 2018 ; MSRP: $2.99 Base Game, $11.99 Episodes 2, 3, 4 + Season Pass
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Sally Face given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.