Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Rose in the Twilight (PS VITA)

I never thought in my life I'd see such an adorable looking game turn out to be so incredibly macabre. That is exactly what 'A Rose in the Twilight' is like though. It's like a huge ball of cute rolled up with the bloodiest, and darkest tale ever told. A horrific tale meant for mature eyes only. One that has you traveling ever more deeply into a derelict dungeon-like castle in order to solve a mysterious curse that binds you immortally to a life stealing, and life regenerating rose ...

Despite the dark nature of the game 'A Rose in the Twilight' definitely has it's charm, and that charm comes in the form of well crafted gameplay. In the way of mechanics the game has ingenious puzzles placed throughout a sectioned off Metroidvania style locale as well as a partner system involving a Golem that only serves to enhance the puzzle solving requirements that are preventing you from discovering the truth behind your curse. By bleeding out, and refilling the rose on the main character's back you'll create pathways, interact with devices, and even (dare I say it) commit suicide for the sake of advancing the twisted narrative. In a cooperative sense you'll find that in the company of the Golem you'll also be able to get to areas you couldn't have accessed alone as the main character of interest. Along the way you'll even catch theatrical reenactments of other peoples' untimely deaths which in turn will pave the way for even further progress. Completing the game isn't as straightforward as it may seem though. Instead you'll find that through direct map menu travel you can, and will have to backtrack in order to collect the available memories necessary to get beyond the intermittent crystals which act as way points on your journey of discovery. Through additionally gathered scrolls the lore at hand opens up even more in a textual sense via gory details allowing you to better understand the main character's plight. Though short lived, the tale that is told through interactive means on the PS Vita console is one that is not easily forgotten, and is one that will definitely stir up thoughts as you play. That, and some well placed sympathy for the main character who is looking to loose herself from her immortalized body.

Gameplay in 'A Rose in the Twilight' is fairly simple, and to the point. As a little girl cursed with a parasitic rose that's attached to her back you'll be able to do a handful of actions that open up the nightmarish world before you in tandem with the puzzle solving mechanics that are applied throughout the room based interior of the castle that you find yourself in. While the game only gives you a few directions at the start in regards to the control functions you will be on your own for a majority of the game as you try to work out how to manage the little girl's buddy system, and how it coincides with each sectional area. For movement you'll find that Rose (that's what I'm going to call her) moves left and right with the left thumbstick. The opposing right thumbstick, on the other hand allows for advanced views of the area she's in. She can also jump ever so slightly with a pressing of 'X'. As far as her rose abilities go she can draw blood from certain red objects in the environments by holding down 'SQUARE' until the ring that encircles her touches the red object near her. Of course pressing, and holding 'SQUARE' will also fill in a white or clear object in a similar manner as the blood draining function works, but only after you have drained blood. Along with that function Rose can also interact with levers, catapults, and other red objects by pressing "CIRCLE" in front of them when an exclamation mark appears. This also goes for the suicide points placed before the thorn sealed doors.

It goes without saying that Rose isn't the only character you'll be controlling in this dark adventure though. When you make it to a certain point in your playthrough you'll meet up with a stone-like Golem that sort of befriends you. With this joint friendship Rose, and the Golem will be able to interact with each other as well as with environmental devices in their own unique yet cooperative ways. Sometimes this involves the short term separation of the two, but in a way that joins them back together before they leave the sectioned off area they are currently in. Switching between Rose, and the Golem can be done by pressing either the "L", or "R" shoulder buttons. When playing solely as the Golem you'll be able to pick up, place, and toss objects that coincide with puzzles as well as do the same with Rose. This feature requires the Golem to be the active character, and that you press "SQUARE" to first pick up the object or Rose, and then hold down  and release the same button to toss them. The Golem can also pass through briar patches that would kill Rose if she ran into them. Using both Rose's, and the Golems abilities properly for each given situation will help you solve the puzzles at hand, and ultimately see the end to Rose's rather morbid story.

As far as progression goes the castle environment that Rose, and the Golem find themselves in is sectioned off into different sized rooms. The rooms contain a mixture of puzzles, doors, interactive elements, and even respawn roses (rose lamps) that act as save points. The puzzle rooms usually come first, followed by the grisly suicide rooms, and finally a crystal room that will reveal the map to you. Once you pass a hanging rose lamp in each room you will respawn there if you are killed by an enemy, pitfall, fall, or other environmental hazards. There are usually multiple rose lamps in a single room as the puzzles are fairly complex. Supposing you ever need to restart, and are stuck without a way to die you can also hold down the "SELECT" button until a press 'X' to restart prompt appears in the lower screen. When it comes to direct map to dungeon travel that is done by pressing the 'START' button, and selecting the "Map" menu option. While on the map you can instantly teleport to places you've already been for the sake of finding memories you might have missed. Simply highlight the room you want to go to, and press 'X'. You'll be at that room's starting entrance in a heartbeat. It should be noted that rooms which were revealed to have memories will be blood splattered.

As far as memories go both the scrolls you find, and the blood you drain from dead bodies will be shown in either a textual display, or one of the theatrical replay animations. All of which is made available in the 'START' menu's 'Collection' sub-menu. You can read through all of Rose's thoughts, and can watch the grisly deaths of those who made the trek before her, if you so desire. These informational tidbits ultimately acts as the heart of the story that would otherwise be absent from the game.

The Presentation ...

The game as a whole leans heavily on black, white, and the color red. A color scheme that is symbolic of death, and life. Not only is it dark and dismal in that sense, but the ambient environmental sounds coupled with the low playing and often times eerie music turns the game into something rather sinister. In light of it all some might compare the game as a whole to an anime version of a non-existent Tim Burton film, and they wouldn't be too far off point. It's got that child-like innocence, but it is anything but innocent. The bloodletting that comes with the red is often times maturely thematic, and to an extreme. A haunting experience the likes of which is definitely not made for children.

The Verdict ...

Despite the disturbing nature of "A Rose in the Twilight" I was drawn completely to it. The story told through various gameplay features was interesting enough to keep me playing until my PS VITA battery warning popped up. I particularly loved the art style, the animations, and the puzzles scattered throughout the game. The puzzles were definitely fun to solve. They were challenging, but not in a way that would turn you away from playing. Looking back, Rose's adventure is the kind of collective experience that gets you thinking about things, and that is good. Seeing how good this game is makes me sad that it's only on the PS Vita though. I'd have loved to have seen it on the PS4 too. At least there it would have had a better chance at sales. I'm not saying it's bad on the Vita, but NISA is really limiting sales potential by making it a Vita only experience. Regardless of that opinion this game is gonna get the Inferno's seal of approval! A "Hell Yeah!!!" to mature consenting adult gamers! No kiddies though.

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