Arise: A Simple Story is the passion project of a small indie studio called Piccolo. The narrative follows the journey of an Old Man shortly after his death and funeral pyre. It’s a charming, yet heart-breaking platformer that infuses intricate level design with simple, yet effective time manipulation.
Arise: A Simple Story
The journey starts at the end of another. As an old man’s funeral pyre burns, you awaken in another reality. It’s in this new reality that you get to relive the memories of his life.
Each memory is represented by its own level. These levels are wonderfully crafted experiences. As you move through each level, you will come across little statues depicting key moments in a lifetime. These little pieces of art act as vignettes, showing a small and precious moment in the Old Man’s life.
These moments start where all good stories usually do: a love interest. You’re introduced to a younger version of the Old Man and a young woman. It’s immediately obvious that a special relationship is blooming between these two.
But navigating these memories is where the truly creative essence lies. While you will need to jump from platform to platform, climb up rocky walls, and swing on a grappling hook, you will also need to manipulate time itself.
You see, in this post-death jaunt through memories, you’re able to force time to flow forward or backward. Water will flow up stream, sunflowers will turn to follow the sun, and fire will burn through bramble. You will need to work out how to advance and rewind the world in order to progress.
The team at Piccolo have done an incredible job implementing this simple system to great effect, in both the puzzles and the story. As you learn more about the main character’s life and his love, it becomes heartbreaking to see his journey through life’s ups and down play out in front of you. This is compounded through the environmental storytelling as well.
In one section, the husband and wife statues are divided by a yawning chasm. After witnessing the previous memory vignette, there is a deep need to bring them back together. By utilizing the flow of time, and the grappling hook, you can close the chasm, and bring the two souls back together once more. It’s a touching moment that harmonizes with the story. Not only are the two souls coming together and healing, you’re actively bringing them back together by playing.
The idea of using time to solve problems isn’t just a neat mechanic, it speaks to the very themes of the game, revisiting emotional highs and lows and adjusting the world to find an equilibrium that allows physical progress and psychological closure at the same time. While we all wish we could turn back the clock, we must continue to march forward, much like the Old Man. And though pain hurts, time itself is the tool we must use to heal wounds.
Arise: A Simple Story is a beautifully, passionate experience that will leave you elated and moved. The passion of the team at Piccolo is evident every step of the way, from the moment you see the love of your life to the closing moments of the game. Arise is more than just a great platform puzzler, it’s video game storytelling done right.