Arise: A Simple Story Review (PS4)

A Lovely Journey

Arise: A Simple Story

Stunning sights and gorgeous sounds come together to make Arise: A Simple Story a game to remember. Interesting, though rarely challenging, puzzles make the game more than just a selection of sights to walk through. Controls which lack the finesse they need stop the game from being what it could have been, but this is still a game worth playing.

You start Arise at your character’s funeral. You’re dead and moving on to the next plane of existence, but on your way there, you get to relive your life over ten levels which each are themed around a major moment and each of which carries a different emotion. Everything from joy, hope, loss, and sorrow gets a level, and the game presents each of them in stunning detail.

 

Unique Visuals

 

Arise: A Simple Story

The look of Arise is simple but in a way that feels somewhat like a watercolor painting. Every character is a blob of colors, but they’re very nice-looking blobs. They come together in environments consisting of mountains, forests, fields of flowers, and some of the most stunning rivers I’ve seen in a game which help give Arise a unique identity. A beautiful score sets the emotional mood consistently, and that’s no easy challenge as that mood shifts rapidly. This is some of the best use of music in a game I can remember in some time.

There aren’t many traditional enemies in Arise, and there’s no combat. Instead, your time is spent figuring out how to navigate its world. Puzzles designed around manipulating time are the challenge here, and while these rarely provide significant difficulty, they’re interesting enough to keep things varied. You may find in a new level that while you still have the same powers, you now use them in a completely different way in order to take on new challenges. This forces you to keep an open mind about a set of tools that at first feels a bit thin but which over time reveal many additional layers.

 

Life After Death

 

Arise: A Simple Story

The story of Arise comes together in a simple, though beautiful way. The journey here has shades of Journey, but with perhaps a bit more cohesion. You aren’t forced to create a story in your mind here, what’s here isn’t too detailed, but the edges are filled in. Like that earlier game, though, this is definitely a journey that is more about the trip than one focused on the destination.

That’s why it’s such a shame when actually playing Arise gets in the way of that trip. Arise never gets all that tough. A very forgiving checkpoint system usually revives you right near where you died when you do so. There are a few stretches where you might have to complete a few platforming segments to get to the next section, but I only remember two of these, in particular, standing out. There are parts of the game where you will die repeatedly, though, not because you don’t understand what to do or how to do it but instead because you’ll reach areas that require precision platforming while leaving you with imprecise controls which never feel quite up to the task.

 

Stay Out Of The Way

 

Arise: A Simple Story

A game like Celeste used a similar checkpoint system while being my favorite game of 2018, but it did so in service of its platforming, using this system to provide a significant challenge while mitigating the frustration that can come with that difficulty. Arise isn’t interested in challenge. The entire game focuses on the journey you’re taking. It wants to keep you moving so you can see the wonderful moments they’ve designed for you. I don’t blame them, if I’d made a game this pretty, I’d want the world to see it too. Instead, when these sections show up, it just feels like the development team couldn’t get the controls quite right. There’s not even any real progression in difficulty. These areas show up fairly early in the game and are often followed by several levels where nothing seems all that difficult. With that being the case, I wish they’d eased up on at least some of these sections. It would have made for a more fulfilling game.

Not overstaying its welcome, I finished Arise in around five hours. There are some collectibles along the way which could possibly help make this a bit longer, but the amount of content here is the right fit for the amount of depth featured. Once you’re done with the game, you’ll find little reason to return. There is a drop-in, drop-out, two-player mode where one player controls the character while the other controls their powers, but while potentially interesting, this led more to frustration than anything else.

 

Conclusion

 

While I wish the actual platforming were a bit stronger, Arise: A Simple Story is still a lovely experience that I recommend checking out. I just wish a bit more of the joy it provides came from playing it.


Final Verdict: 4/5

Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Untold Tales; Developer: Piccolo Studio; Players: 1; Released: December 3rd, 2019; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $19.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Arise: A Simple Story provided by the publisher.

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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