REVIEW: ‘Iris.Fall’ Offers a Beautiful and Melancholic World (Switch)

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Iris.Fall

Iris.Fall is where gothic horror meets puzzles. Developed by Next Studios and published by PM Studios, Iris.Fall is a haunting and beautifully crafted puzzle adventure game with a melancholic soundtrack. From the developer’s page, “Next Studios aims to make differentiated, high quality, and reputable games…We experiment with new designs, create new experiences, research new technologies, work across platforms and game genres, to explore future possibilities in gaming as a unique media, and keep pushing the boundaries.” And boy does Iris.Fall deliver.

Initially released on the PC via Steam on December 7, 2018, Iris.Fall is now coming to console, and like most puzzle games, it’s a perfect match for the Nintendo Switch. In the game, you play as Iris, who has just awakened from a dream. Iris then follows a black cat into a dilapidated theater, traveling back and forth through a strange labyrinth of light and shadow. As the story unfolds, Iris realizes that everything in this theater seems to be connected to her. As you make your way through the game, not only do you discover inventive mechanics, but also a heartfelt and emotional story that uses the melancholy of gothic stories to its advantage.

A stark gray-washed color-palette creates an atmospheric tone for Iris.Fall while the music lulls you. On a visual level, this is one of the most beautiful games I’ve played in a while. While some elements of the environment feel close to real, if only stretched to the common fantasy distortion, others feel like they’re pages from a pop-up book. The 3D environments are beautiful to look at, even if they are sometimes hard to traverse. The world of Iris.Fall is whimsical, dark, mysterious, and honestly, a tad creepy. This is facilitated by dolls, marionettes, mannequins, and how the art team has aged the theater with paper peeling from the walls and holes in the floor.

A puzzle adventure game with 2D and 3D elements, some of the level traversals can be frustrating. At least while playing on a Switch Lite. The main issue is that while the setting is beautiful, it is hard to gauge depth, making it difficult sometimes to know what areas you can walk further into and which ones you can’t.

Iris.Fall

That said, the beauty of the level design isn’t only when you’re engaging in the world in a 3D sense. By using light and shadow as a core concept, Iris engages in the world in two ways. While some challenges are completed in the real world, a 3D setting, others require you to become a shadow yourself. As a shadow, you can use the environment differently, using the shadows of objects in the foreground to create a path for you to progress through puzzles and platforms. This means that you often solve puzzles requiring moving elements of the world around you and then switching your perspective to a 2D shadow to progress.

In truth, 3D to 2D puzzle-solving is one of my favorite game mechanics. This causes you to think of the level in multiple ways and increases the difficulty. That being said, the number of times the player needs to switch between Iris to Shadow Iris for one puzzle can sometimes be tedious. Additionally, the learning curve for getting used to the environment and utilizing tools and items that you pick up is hard and was clearly first designed to be drag-and-drop with a mouse. For example, in the second puzzle of the game, you’re required to complete a circuit board. While the first two are simple, the third posed a small challenge because of how the wires auto-lock onto circuits. While I knew the answer to the puzzle, I fumbled through moving the pieces around because it was difficult to have them auto-lock onto the appropriate element of the puzzle.

Another small gripe I have with Iris.Fall is that it’s too beautiful to play on such a small screen like a Switch Lite or a Switch not docked, which removes the ability to play it on a handheld. With intricate environments and movement from Iris, there are issues with distortion on such a small screen. While this is a simple fix by docking your Switch, I wouldn’t say to play it on this platform if you only have a Switch Lite.

Overall, Iris.Fall is a phenomenal game. It’s gorgeous, emotive, and not exhaustively long. It’s an immersive game that aims to blend a somber tone with an innovative design. While there are some tedious moments and less than ideal elements that don’t map to controllers well over a mouse, this isn’t enough to make it a game to pass on. Having found success on PC, I’m excited for fans of the genre to play Iris.Fall on their consoles. For the beautiful world and score alone, this is one game that I want more of.

Iris.Fall is available now on PC via Steam and will be available o Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on January 7, 2021.

Iris.Fall
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Overall, Iris.Fall is a phenomenal game. It’s gorgeous, emotive, and not exhaustively long. It’s an immersive game that aims to blend a somber tone with an innovative design. While there are some tedious moments and less than ideal elements that don’t map to controllers well over a mouse, this isn’t enough to make it a game to pass on. Having found success on PC, I’m excited for fans of the genre to play Iris.Fall on their consoles. For the beautiful world and score alone, this is one game that I want more of.