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Review: A Rose in the Twilight

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Depressing quest

Did you know in the original version of The Little Mermaid, when the central character gets her legs, every step she takes feels as though she is walking on knives? And instead of marrying the prince at the end, she dies and turns into seafoam? Classic children’s fairy tales are full of a kind of morbidity that would have no place in today’s helicopter parent society. Whether it’s the golden slipper cutting off the toe of an ugly stepsister in Cinderella or the evil queen being forced to dance to death in Snow White, these stories weren’t afraid to terrify children with gruesome imagery.

A Rose in the Twilight would fit right in with those fables.

A Rose in the Twilight (Vita [reviewed], PC)
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Released: April 11, 2017 (US), April 14, 2017 (EU)
MSRP: $39.99

I think somebody at NIS hates little girls. After playing through Yomawari last year, I didn’t think I could see anything more grotesque done to a helpless little girl in a video game. A Rose in the Twilight proved that thought to be incorrect as I traversed its castle watching this abandoned little girl die many, many deaths.

The girl’s name is Rose, which is fitting because she has that thorny flower sticking out of her side. She is alone in a castle that has fallen to ruins. A massive growth of thorns has torn the building asunder, literally draining the life out of nearly everyone and everything inside. The color palette is washed out, with the only instances of vibrancy found in the blood of the building.

Blood is the key to escaping. With the rose attached to her body, Rose can drain the blood and color out of objects and the creatures you find within. Doing so will freeze the item in place, creating a bridge or clearing a path to the exit. As Rose is largely helpless on her own, she’s introduced to a stone companion quite quickly. This faceless being can lift, carry, drop, and throw Rose or most objects she’s imbued with color. You can switch off between the two with the press of the button, working in tandem to solve the puzzles in each room.

Controlling Rose and her golem quickly felt like second nature. The controls are simple to grasp as are the limitations of both characters. Rose, when draining or expelling blood, slows down time which is helpful for the puzzles that require precise timing. The golem can fall any length without getting hurt and can walk through thorns no problem. Many of the puzzles separate Rose from her companion, forcing me to solve separate puzzles that bring them back together.

That’s the set-up for the entirety of this puzzle platformer, and early on it had me feeling like I was just going through the motions. The first few chambers of the castle do introduce new elements, but they all felt too similar and lacked a creative spark. The second half of the game was more interesting with timed puzzles, art puzzles, and puzzles that spanned multiple rooms. And just as the game was getting really good, it ended.

Seeing the credits roll only took me about four hours, but grabbing a platinum trophy for this game is probably another four to five hours of work depending on how quickly I am able to solve these puzzles. Or if I am able to solve them at all. I'm working on endgame content right now after being tripped up for a few hours trying to retrieve a blood memory that seemed impossible to grasp.


Blood memories comprise the story of the game. As Rose doesn’t quite remember what happened to her and this castle, she needs to collect blood from bodies scattered about to get a glimpse of what went down. These shadow puppet presentations can be macabre, showing how a person died or what can only be described as child abuse. These images, along with the multiple deadly ends that await Rose, are juxtaposed by a decidedly under-animated game. Rose, her golem, and the creatures that call the castle home don’t have a lot of movement to them. I don’t know if that was an artistic choice or one determined by budget and time constraints, but it actually works well here. Rose’s limited animations make her seem like more of a doll than a person, providing an additional layer of heartbreaking innocence to her existence.

Without going into too much detail, the story of A Rose in the Twilight is tragic, the type of tragic that you would read in those old Hans Christian Andersen tales. With no voice acting and very little text, the game is able to tell a tale filled with mystery, calamity, and sorrow. Seeing the events of the past play out in stark red and black cut scenes made my heart sink as I realized just how attached I had become to Rose in such a short amount of time. When I had to force her into a harrowing situation, I fought it, occasionally refusing to move on knowing what she would have to endure to unlock the next part of the castle. But I had to go forward, and in doing so I sickened myself at times watching what I made her do, a feeling the morose soundtrack refused to let me shake.


Grabbing these blood memories is the key to completing your journey as they not only unlock different parts of the castle but access to the postgame content as well. You just have to be careful when you’re going for them because it can be all too easy to accidentally die. Rose is fragile and when she wasn’t getting killed by falling too far I was inadvertently walking her directly into thorns. The artwork, while captivating, can also make it difficult to tell if the thorns in front of you are deadly or not. Background blends into foreground, which is enchanting to look at, but not when it’s causing you to restart the room over and over again.

A Rose in the Twilight does a lot of things well. It crafts a story and a world that makes me care deeply about its central character, it’s visually spectacular when it’s not killing you with its hard-to-distinguish artwork, and it touches on moods and feelings that most other games don’t even attempt to venture into. For as much creativity as there is to be found throughout those aspects, there isn’t nearly enough in the actual gameplay. If the first half played more like the second half, it would have been an outstanding experience in spite of its short length.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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A Rose in the Twilight reviewed by CJ Andriessen

7.5

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenFeatures Editor   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games. Also, I backed that Bloodstained game. more + disclosures


 




 


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