A Fold Apart Review
It’s not every day that a video game has the capacity to move me to tears, and I can’t say I remember the last time it even happened. It’s usually easy for me to distance my emotions from a work of art or a piece of media, but Lightning Rod Games’ new puzzle game A Fold Apart has no issue whatsoever breaking down all of my walls. It’s an emotional journey more than it is a simple puzzle game. A Fold Apart is a story about love. And more than that, it’s a story about separation. It’s about doubt. Grief. Loneliness. Pain. Sadness, and strength. It’s about the struggle between emotion and reason when two people in love make the choice to be apart. It’s a tragically well-written tale, and one that succeeds at feeling as real and tangible as it gets.
A Fold Apart follows the story of a couple that enters a long distance relationship when one partner, an architect by trade, decides to take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design a major landmark in a different city. The architect’s contract is initially supposed to last one year, with the expectation to come home once the project is completed. As we switch back and forth between the perspectives of both partners, we experience different stages of their lives as they try to survive their year apart.
Heavy Hearted Tale
Each chapter of A Fold Apart begins with a conversation over text. For the most part, we walk the character slowly through their surroundings and watch as text messages appear on the screen, but occasionally we have the opportunity to choose the character’s responses. The conversations usually start with one person checking in on the other, and they go back and forth with messages that feel extremely real. None of the dialogue feels scripted so much as it feels taken from the archives of a real-life long distance couple, and they talk about everything from how their day is going to how excited they are for their next visit. At a certain point in every conversation, however, one text will trigger the character into a depression or episode of anger. One example of this is a chapter where the architect asks about the other’s plans for the evening, and is met with the response, “…probably just sit at home and watch TV alone, like always,” and it immediately sends him into a fit of sadness and guilt about his lover’s loneliness.
When an episode is triggered, the puzzles begin, and the character works through their inner monologue as we traverse through different landscapes that reflect their mood. The puzzles consist of different disconnected platforms with a star placed somewhere on the page, and it’s our job to connect the platforms and get the lover to the star. We do this by clicking and dragging different parts of the page to fold them together and connect walkways for our character. At first, we can only fold the pages horizontally and flip it over to reveal another side, but eventually we are given the ability to fold vertically and corner to corner, rotate the page, and use tools such as disappearing platforms and climbable boxes. A Fold Apart does an excellent job pacing new mechanics out over the course of each chapter, and though you accrue more complicated methods throughout the game, the puzzles do not get more difficult so much as they just bend your way of thinking creatively.
The inner monologues are truly the points where the story hits home the hardest. As you enter a new page in every puzzle, a line of text splashes across the backdrop, conveying the character’s raw and genuine thoughts as they try to work through their emotions independently. Words of grief, anger and heartache will formulate as you work to solve the puzzles, and they are all true expressions of the struggles felt by those in long distance relationships. They deal with the conflict of wanting the other to be happy even if it means painful separation, and the struggle between doing what’s best for their future and doing what feels right in the moment. The inner conflicts offer an honest and intimate window into the minds of two different people in a complicated relationship, and the authenticity of their monologues makes A Fold Apart one of the most emotionally gripping journeys I’ve experienced in a long time.
Evocative, Not Exhilarating
In terms of gameplay, the puzzle design in A Fold Apart is laudable and creative, though I’d be lying if I said they were thrilling enough to keep you hooked for hours. They exercise your brain in a similar fashion to Sudokus and crosswords, and I found that, for the most part, the puzzles were very easy to overthink at first. The longer I played, the more I got the hang of the concept, and overall I felt it was a manageable challenge — not too hard, and not too easy either.
A Fold Apart is not anything to write home about in terms of graphics or artwork, but conceptually, the scenery is evocative and well-executed. When the characters are triggered in a conversation, the scenery shifts to match their emotions. A stroll through a park will quickly turn into a slow trudge through a stormy meadow. A walk home from the office will shift into a melancholy shuffle on the outskirts of a dark city. Though it’s not an artistic masterpiece, it’s charming and stylized, and stays in tune with the tone of the game.
It may not have the flashiest or most exhilarating gameplay, but A Fold Apart achieves almost everything it sets out to do, which is to truly put you in the shoes of someone in love — and someone in pain. Undeniably, it will make you sad, but this is a testament to how well the game’s creators executed the delivery of the story. I didn’t feel as though I was actively playing a puzzle game or reading a work of fiction. I sincerely felt like I was glimpsing into the lives and minds of a real couple right in front of me, and for that, I think this game is worthy of your time.
***PC review code provided by the publisher.***
- Writing feels astoundingly real
- Well-executed story and tone
- Emotionally gripping
- Creative and fresh puzzle concept
- Less than thrilling gameplay
- Will definitely make you sad