IntroductionVirginia, developed by Variable State and published by 505 Games, is an interactive first-person dramatic storytelling game. The unsettling mystery thriller, with many similarities and inspiration from movies and shows like Twin Peaks and X-Files and games like Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, takes players into a 1992 Virginia town to solve a case involving a missing young boy. In FBI noir fashion, unravel the mystery and watch as a crazy plot unfolds before your eyes. You can buy the game on Steam or PlayStation Network for $9.99.
StoryYou'll play as the protagonist, Anne Tarver, a recently graduated FBI agent, who is sent to the town of Kingdom located in the state of Virginia. You'll be teamed up with your new special agent partner, Maria Halperin, and take on the case of the mysterious disappearance of a young boy, Lucas Fairfax, who's family has been settled in the town. It may sound like a routine missing child case, but the story plays out as anything but routine. With a supernatural undertone, you'll experience strange events in reality of the game world as well as the night time dreams Anne experiences. The psychological effect she will go through will play a role in how players interpret the story, as will as provide indications of the past and current events.
GameplayYou will walk around as Anne in order to investigate different scenes and environments, but it does feel fairly linear in nature. You won't need to piece together numerous clues in an effort to decide your next plan of action, and you won't find multiple paths to progress the story. You won't find tons of objects to inspect or interact with, but as it is focused on a linear storytelling experience, it keeps you from picking up every little thing in hopes it's what you're intended to find. If you've played Gone Home you'll know how time-consuming all the interactions could be; Virginia avoids this.
As you progress through the story, you'll find that it almost pushes you through everything. In tribute to 90s shows and movies, cuts in the scenes in attempts for cinematic effect lead players to feel a little robbed of the actual playing part. At times when interacting with an object, and it's the significant one to the scene, you'll be jumped into a completely new scene or environment. Even at times when walking around you'll be jumped to slightly forwarded locations with little reason as to why you need to have the scene cut.
Sound and GraphicsThe game features no form of voice acting, and a minimal amount of text support (mostly found on paperwork and documents you'll interact with throughout the scenes). Although the story isn't told through narration or voices, it does succeed at telling a great story as it allows much to be interpreted by the player. Just as written novels are treasured for an expansive and free imagination for scenes being described, this game provides freedom and imagination in regards to how the characters think and interact with one another due to the scenes and animations depicted. The supporting music is wonderful and efficient in its desire to set the tones. With soft orchestra rhythms that don't force the feelings the story makes you feel, and chilling music at the right times, it does well in helping provide a thematic and meaningful experience.
Graphics are very simple, as to not flood the environments and scenes with clutter, but some may find this debatably negative for the experience. This is not to say everything is bland or boring; the simplicity offers a sharp and bright visual. Characters are detailed enough to offer uniqueness amongst themselves, and the animations they make are significant to the story (you'll see some frown, look worrisome, angered, etc.). One extremely positive thing in regards to graphics I noticed was the way the lighting and shadowing worked; it doesn't look like pure lighting effects from actual light sources, and each object has a lighting/shadowing effect that makes it pop. When all these objects are placed together in the environments as they are, it offers a truly elegant scene to explore.
ConclusionAs a whole, Virginia offers a truly interesting adventure full of mystery and interpretation for players to enjoy. It tells a story similar to ones from the past that have found much success with fans but does so in a way unique to itself. The lack of narration or voice acting may be a little worrisome to those considering it for purchase, but as it is intentional by the developers, they have focused much attention on the other storytelling aspects like character animations and general depictions of the environments and scenes.
The game is not without its faults, though; it was pretty short to play through completely (my time clocked in somewhere near 2 hours). It prioritizes the story more so than the adventure of exploring with its pretty linear format. This will either hit or miss with players as I found it to be an excellent game in all, but can completely understand how others may find some frustration regarding the lack of true and deep gameplay.
|+ Great Storytelling||- Lacks some deeper exploration gameplay|
|+ Supporting soundtrack||- Cutscene editing is rough at first to understand|
|+ Interesting art/design choice||- Replay value is up for debate|
|+ Character animations are extremely well performed|