The Suicide of Rachel Foster is unlike any other game I have picked up on Nintendo Switch. It’s brutal and it’s bleak, yet there is something oddly charming about it. I went into this with no expectations, only basing my knowledge off the title of the game. So what unraveled before me was a journey of grief and sorrow. I became rapidly invested in the characters and story and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since my initial playthrough. The game leaves a lot of space for the player’s interpretation, so a lot of questions raised leave you pondering the answers.
Prepare yourself for the chilling tale of The Suicide of Rachel Foster. It’s definitely an unsettling one.
Note: This game includes themes of suicide and grooming – as does this review.
Story: Traveling Back in Time
Nicole’s mother takes her own life following the affair of her husband. Our tale begins with this fact. But our story begins with Nicole revisiting the hotel she grew up in, in order to begin the process of selling it following the passing of her mother. Nicole aims to tie up loose ends, both with the death of her mother and the business of the hotel, which has been abandoned since she left. But the weather is not on her side, trapping her in the midst of a snowstorm too dangerous to trek outside in.
Nicole’s only company is a voice on the other end of a phone, which guides her through the hotel and provides a series of tasks whilst you are abandoned in the last place you’d want to be in grieving. The story is definitely uncomfortable; it dives straight into an extremely heavy topic, but that’s just reflective of grief. Eventually, you find yourself adding together the loose ends you came in to tie and unravel something completely unexplainable.
The gentle hum of the hotel is haunting. There’s a lingering feeling of something unsettling around you at all times, giving this game a PT feel. It’s a lot of walking as well: walking into danger, to be more specific. You are completely reliant on your senses for the majority of the game, so listen carefully. It might be the only thing you can do to keep yourself safe.
Gameplay: The Haunting of the Hotel
The gameplay within The Suicide of Rachel Foster is indescribably compelling. The photorealistic approach to graphics and movements reminds you that this isn’t just a game, but a ‘real world’ tale of grief and fear. The journey begins with our protagonist, Nicole, reading a letter from her deceased mother following the events that transpired. Scenes of her funeral are cut between turning pages, which is where extremely unique approaches to controls are taken.
Throughout the game, you learn a series of new controls from small prompts on the screen. They are extremely simple. You can run, move the camera, move yourself and zoom in. Occasionally you will need to interact with objects, but the game always prompts which button to press to do so. I found the lack of things to do rather powerful. It ensures the player is reliant on their own observational skills rather than the character’s.
It is as if this game takes you through the stages of grief alongside Nicole. Years have passed since her mother’s passing, but revisiting the hotel definitely resurfaces her emotion. As I mentioned already, it’s probably the last place you’d want to be stuck in a snowstorm. Nicole isn’t shying away from her emotions either. She takes a cynical approach to the entire situation, which lightens it up when things begin to feel just a little too heavy.
I always feel like somebody’s watching me…
There’s an almost overbearing sense of horror and dread throughout the entire game. It’s most certainly uncomfortable at the best of times, but I think that’s one of the reasons it feels so absorbing. Time is measured in days, which seem to pass very quickly once Nicole comes to terms with the fact she’s stuck for the next week or so. It takes about four days before you can really sink your teeth into the death of Rachel Foster. Prior to this, you essentially just have to survive alone in the hotel, so finding food and making sure you don’t get consumed by the cold.
When you get to the beef of the story, it really starts to emphasise the horror aspect. Although it isn’t really a horror game, it certainly feels like one. I definitely clutched my controller until my knuckles went white during certain elements. Rather than having jump scares, it’s just a continuous series of feeling incredibly tense. There are no demons to outrun, or at least no physical demons to run from. There are no haunting spirits or anything; you’re just extremely aware of the fact you’re in the middle of something nasty.
Audio and Graphics: Spooky soundscapes and unsettling imagery
The sound design of this game is incredible. Despite there being little to no soundtrack, the foley work is what really sells the title. It’s haunting without being scary, such as Amnesia. The game isn’t supposed to be a horror, but the foley work definitely leaves you feeling tense. For example, one of the tasks you are faced with is ‘what is making that din?’ followed by a never ending echo of loud thuds. But turn one way and they get quieter. Turn another and the sound leads you in the right direction.
Within this game, you have to rely entirely on your own senses. I will admit, I am a little slow when it comes to things like this. I got quite scared when loud thuds suddenly came from the upper floors of an abandoned hotel. Who wouldn’t be? But I had to take a moment just to take in all the creaking floorboards or the way the wind howls through damaged window frames. There was something about this game which kept me consumed for hours.
In terms of graphics, everything is extremely detailed. It partially feels like you’re watching a film rather than playing a game. Despite the Nintendo Switch dampening the clarity of some graphics, it still looks good. I revisited the title on PC to see if there was any drastic graphical difference and to be honest there definitely is. Whilst on PC everything appears as crystal clear, the Switch definitely minimizes the quality. When picking objects up to inspect, they appear blurry. Pages aren’t defined, and you’ll struggle to ready any sort of document. But on PC, everything is clear as day.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by Marchsreiter Communications.