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Reaching for Petals

is a poetic adventure about love, loss, and ambition in a desolated world full of mystery. read more

Reaching for Petals Preview

Author: Jake Mellor
14-Jul-2017

Category: Preview

Reaching for Petals is a new first-person, narrative-driven adventure game. Can Blue Entropy Studios reach the same high standards of brilliance already set by preceding titles? No, I'm not going to apologise for that "reach" pun.

Reaching for Petals Preview.

Introduction

Over the last few years, a rather successful new genre of games has been emerging; the single-player, first-person narrative adventure game, that has you exploring and interacting with an environment, often solving puzzles along the way. Reaching for Petals is the latest addition to this genre; small Indie company Blue Entropy Studios' first full game, following a few VR-based "Escape the Room" titles (I haven't played any of them, but I could take a guess at what they entail) and Roomscale Coaster, which is quite obviously about an oversized beermat. But with a new genre comes new challenges; just how good a game will Reaching for Petals turn out to be?

Reaching for Petals will be released on Steam later this summer.

Story and Gameplay

The game sees you walking through a rich environment, periodically being told a story (though often a string of metaphors and idioms) by an unseen narrator. It feels almost like a nature documentary, containing such elucidating philosophical moments as "Memories of the truth contort into beautification of reality" (eh?), and a heartwarming speech about the solitude but enduring nature of one specific tree in the nameless forest you begin the game in- while jumping on a fallen log from a tree which didn't endure so well. There is a consistent emphasis on the beauty of nature, as leaves flutter around you and birds chirp in the distance, as you walk through this poetic world.

Reaching for Petals Preview. If a tree falls in the wood, does anyone hear it? Yes, because I just knocked it over.
Heavy emphasis on walk; though there is a jog button (or five of them, on a controller), the speed at which you move through the landscape is a gentle stroll, even while jogging. Players who love nothing more than charging through a game paying little care and attention to detail or plot will thus hate Reaching for Petals immediately. The way the game has been designed forces you to pay attention, to capitalise on the slow speed your character moves at by paying greater attention to everything, from the luscious foliage or haunting rocks to the speech of the narrator, who appears sporadically as you progress through the world Or doesn't, if, like me, you end up in a wooden cabin for ten minutes, trying to establish the significance of "K+R" scrawled on the wall in either spray paint or blood. I believe it may be a deep metaphysical algebraic theorem- or just random letters. More likely random letters, to be honest.

Reaching for Petals Preview. Hmm...some form of Necromantc algebra, in stark contrast to the living, breathing surroundings?
Occasionally you will be forced to interact with the environment, hopping over rocks or knocking down trees to progress to the next area (after studying that cabin, of course). Death does not seem an option; which is ironic, really, considering how you are told of the fleeting nature of life, the evils of nature, of hunter and prey; jumping (or accidentally falling) off the cliff into the river below simply causes the game to fade to black, and you reappear exactly where you lost your footing (intentional or otherwise), while the narrator continues his monologue as if nothing happened. Indeed, from what I saw of the game, very little does happen; you traverse the landscape, listening to the poetry offered by this omnipresent voice, until eventually reaching a flower at the end of your path. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind.

Reaching for Petals Preview. These ARE the petals you are looking for...
At this point, you are teleported to a bedroom (presumably your own, though don't rule out our burglaring skills) and are presented with an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure style journal; beginning with childhood, and presumably progressing through the stages of life, the further you get through the game. Following the end of this mini-Zork, you fade into a new location. It's at this point I began to think of the whole thing as an allegory; you are exploring your own journey through life, by literally exploring an environment reminiscent of the tones of these memories; a peaceful and beautiful Eden of a forest signifying the calm, formative years; a gloomy cavern representing more troubled times. At least, this is how I interpreted it; perhaps the beauty of this game is that you will, like the greatest works of art, see it your own, unique way. Or perhaps I'm a little too abstract to be considered mentally sane.

Reaching for Petals Preview. Poetry (but not in motion...it's just a book).

Graphics

There's no fancy, non-cliched way of putting this: the graphics are simply stunning. On low, the scenery is somewhat reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but without miscellaneous giants and idiotic bandits who believe the arrow that flew through the back of their head "must have been nothing" (stupidity which even triumphs Oblivion's "It must have been the wind"). Put everything on high, however, and you get something else.

Reaching for Petals Preview. Lots of trees. Funny, that, in a forest.
Every second I spent walking through the landscape of the game I enjoyed; from the bloom appearing on the camera, to the shadows cast by the bed on the far wall; I took about as many screenshots for this preview as I do snaps with my camera while on holiday. Thankfully, none of those screenshots have my ugly mug ruining them, which is a one-up from real life. I can't post every screencap I took; I'd probably overload KeenGamer's server, and besides, it's something the player should enjoy for themselves. Here's a couple, though, highlighting some of what the game has to offer, from luscious foliage to gloomy caverns. If I were Blue Entropy, I'd charge a microtransaction for taking screenshots for later- they'd make a lot of extra money.

Reaching for Petals Preview. Don't look down!

Reaching for Petals Preview. It's almost like a Skyrim cave, actually...where's the Word Wall?

SOUND

In a game like this, the choice of narrator is key. Part of what made The Stanley Parable such a fantastic game was Kevan Brighting, while I will forever associate the early Harry Potter games with Stephen Fry's unmistakable voice. In a game such as this, David Attenborough's voice wouldn't go amiss; but Blue Entropy Studios have found a gem of a voice actor.

It almost reminds me of the start of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, which begins with a monologue along the lines of "I have spoken to the rocks, but they did not reply, because I'm a crazy man with a log in his hair." The voice is soft and soothing in some places, and intense and grandiose in others; the subtle tonal shifts work well with the background music, which also changes based on surroundings, the cavern level sounding a bit darker than the peaceful forest full of chirping birds and other animal calls, accompanied by what a relaxing piano sonata, worthy of its own meditative self-help soundtrack CD.

The three elements combine to deliver a complete, immersive package. As I said before, it's almost like a VR documentary, without the risk of a savage animal bounding out of the woods and devouring you whole.

Conclusion

Some players may consider this whole article a complete overaction, thinking "Meh, it looks ok." But in a world increasingly dominated by pixel-based, retro feel Indie games, it's (another pun alert) a breath of fresh air to see an indie game with such a stunning attention to detail- from the second you begin, leaves are falling in front of your face (but somewhat strangely, no petals), and droplets are falling into a puddle and realistically creating circles in the water upon splashing.

Because there's no intense battles, one million NPCs to load, or any such thing that would slow the game down, Blue Entropy have been able to focus more on bringing the mysterious world alive: after all, that's largely what the game is. The likes of Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch are magnificent games in their own right, but Reaching for Petals made a much bigger impression on me; the graphics are Triple-A standard, and often I zoned out of what the narrator was saying, getting lost looking at my surroundings. Much like real life, actually.

Reaching for Petals Preview. I can see the light at the end of the release date tunnel...it's so close!

There's something strangely captivating about Reaching for Petals; be it the music, the narrator, the world itself or a combination of all these elements; needless to say, I got to the end of the alpha build demo and immediately wanted more. In my books, that's the sign of a good game. It may not be fast-paced, action-packed or lore heavy, but it's most certainly a work of art.

It can be interpreted on many levels; you can start drawing philosophical connections or looking for meaning in everything that is said or written, or you can appreciate it like a scenic walk, but without the need for going outside. Either way, the end of summer can't come quick enough- the annoying children in my neighbourhood will have to go back to school, and I can play the full release of Reaching for Petals in genuine peace and quiet. The time is so close, but I can't quite reach it yet...

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