Goodbye Sally Face
Spoilers for episodes 1-4 ahead!
The release of Sally Face Episode Five: Memories and Dreams came a little bittersweet to me. I was very excited to play the new episode. However, I was saddened to see this series end. Sally Face is, without a doubt, one of those rare episodic games that got increasingly better with every episode. True, I did say in my episode four review that the chapter wasn’t quite as enjoyable as episode three, but the game still held up, and the story stayed strong and engaging.
The creator, Steve Gabry, also showed a lot of respect for his project and the players by continuing to update and fix glitches in earlier episodes, whilst working on the new ones. It may sound like an obvious thing to do, but it’s always surprising to me how some creators don’t bother and separates what’s worth sticking with and what’s not.
I was a little confused at the end of episode four, learning that there would be another chapter. Since you know, the main character literally and canonically died at the end of the episode. Okay, it’s a series with strong paranormal themes, and many characters, including your companion for the last mission in episode four, are ghosts. But I was still a little cynical as to where Gabry was going with this. I was worried that episode five would drag on and fail to have any conclusive ending to the whole series.
I’m happy to say that my worries were completely wrong.
The Final Chapter
I would say that there are a few fragments of the story that are still unanswered with the conclusion of the game. (I shan’t go into specifics as I’m fairly certain I’ve missed/forgotten a few things along the way.) But that doesn’t bother me too much. I always believe that a good storyteller should never spoonfeed their audience, and some things should be left to the imagination of the fans. But the final chapter brings a dark, yet somewhat wholesome end, to a very bizarre adventure.
The basic storyline to episode five is that Ash and Neil, following the events of episode four, take it upon themselves to stop their local cult, The Devourers of God, who are responsible for the infection of the residents in Addison Appartments. (Which is why Sal had to kill them.) After the cult kidnaps Todd, Ash attempts to summon the ghost of Sal to help free their friends and end the cult. To do this, she must perform a ritual, which involves Sal going through a series of levels and solving some puzzles. Classic Sally Face stuff.
There isn’t as much development to other characters in Memories and Dreams as there are in former chapters, despite you playing as both Ash and Larry in some sections. But we do get some glimpses into Sal’s past, in a bizarre flashback structure in between sections of the story. This honestly nearly brought me to tears at times, seeing how Gizmo pretty much saved Sally’s life and how hard his Dad had worked to get them a new start. But thanks to the cult, this was all for nothing, given the Addison Apartment Murders. Seeing Sal cradling kitten Gizmo later, after we see Gizmo curled up on Sal’s unused bed, shows volumes more about their relationship than any interactions the characters actually had through gameplay.
It’s bizarre how close Gabry manages to take you to these characters, given the gruesome settings and images he presents to you. But nevertheless, he manages to produce believable and relatable human characters in the midst of red-eyed demons and crazed cultists, which is something that is always worth praise.
Through Different Eyes
Probably the most interesting thing about Sally Face Episode Five is the deviation from the game’s traditional art style. Every level Sal enters takes him into a different world, such as a claymation style or, my personal favorite, a Tim Burton-esque style that really suited the character and his personality. It was interesting to see Sally move around in different worlds. It took me a few moments it the 3D block forest to realize that one could move forward and backward, as I have gotten so used to this being a side-scrolling game.
I’ve always loved the art style of this game, with it’s gothic, 90s cartoon vibes. But it was great fun to see different takes on the character, and it’s clear the creator enjoyed it too.
Episode five also shows a new side to the game, when towards the end, the player actually gets to fight off daemons and cultists. Sally Face was great at creating original and engaging puzzles, but given the urgency towards the end of the game, it makes sense that it evolved into actual combat. There are three sections of combat. Ash, being the “melee” level, where she has to smash cultists with her possessed arm before they get too close. “Mage” like Larry, who can evaporate all enemies on screen. And finally, “range” 8-Bit style Sal shooting at daemons with his guitar- because of reasons! This part of the game was incredibly enjoyable and honestly added a somewhat humourous edge to the story’s intense emotions.
I will say, however, that the puzzles in episode five did drag a bit. Most of the puzzles were very samey and came down to trial and error. Others, such as finding the code to Todd’s room, just felt needless and weren’t enjoyable. (Honestly, no-one will judge you if you have to look up how to do that one. Just get it done and move on) It would have been great if each level gave a new puzzle that relied on the rules of their world to solve. It’s a shame as I found the puzzles in earlier games, particularly The Bologna Incident to be very creative and original.
Finally at Peace
The good thing about the series being over is that I can finally review the game as a whole. Sally Face is an interesting, original adventure that, despite some moments of silliness, really dives into your emotions and engages the player. I really found myself caring about these characters and their journey. The actual ending was very unexpected, but still heartwarming and satisfying, which is a weird thing to say about a series where you literally murder a baby and see the dangling, naked corpses of close friends.
While those moments are chilling, Sally Face never gives you blood and gore just for the sake of it, which is something that often turns me off horror games. Everything in Sally Face happens for a reason, which makes it all the more engaging. You feel Ash’s guilt in testifying against Sal, so you want to help her finish what he started.
Sally Face from start to finish has become one of my favorites, and I look forward to playing all five episodes again from start to finish since I know there are areas I missed the first time. It’s a linear storyline that still manages to give you reasons to replay, with other areas to unlock and occasionally different ways to get from A to B. It’s an experience I would thoroughly recommend.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Portable Moose ; Developer: Steve Gabry; Players: 1 ; Released: December 13, 2019 ; MSRP: $2.99 Base Game, $11.99 Season Pass
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Sally Face given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.