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Game Review – Re:Turn – One Way Trip

Publisher: Green Man Gaming
Developer: Red Ego Games
Available on: PC (Steam, itch.io), Xbox One
Played on PC (Steam)
Copy provided by PR

It’s October, which means we are deep within horror season, as Halloween spreads its influence across the month and forces every developer to release a horror game. It’s the best time of the year, of course.

Re:Turn – One Way Trip is one of the many indie horror titles coming down the track this month, and it caught my attention with its anime style visuals, and I’m always on board for a good point and click. It also promises a story all about unrequited love, which I found curious since most of the screenshots were of a girl alone on a train.

That girl is Saki, a teenager who decides to go camping in the woods with her friends in the lead up to their graduation, a moment of freedom before entering adulthood. And as you’d expect from horror, camping in the woods turns out to be a bad idea. After encountering some strange sights and a mysterious poem, an argument breaks out and one of Saki’s friends flees into the forest. When Saki wakes to find herself alone after this incident, she tries to track her friends and instead finds a haunted train wreck. Things kind of go off the rails from there.

What follows is a fairly standard point and click adventure, a game that feels a lot like fellow horror point and click Detention, with its side-scrolling perspective and focus on spooky puzzle solving. Saki encounters supernaturally locked doors, strange child’s drawings, and all manner of strange happenings, including moments where Saki gets shunted to the past.

The main focus of Re:Turn’s appeal is, without a doubt, its storyline, which is serviced by its rudimentary gameplay. As the story progresses, Saki learns new things about her friends that have been kept secret, while also seeing her own situation reflected in the WW2-era aristocracy who rode on the train when it got wrecked. Without too much in the way of spoilers, there are two couples in the past with their own troubles, including class division tearing a romance apart, while Saki has to contend with her own possessive fiancé’s conduct.

It’s a great setup, and I found myself invested in these characters and their relationship struggles. I wanted to keep pushing forward to discover the secrets in store. Saki was a likeable character, and her interactions with other characters always kept me engaged. The twists and revelations helped the story really pick up steam, with a mid-game twist revealing who was really to blame for the events unfolding being especially surprising.

That said, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the story as a whole. While I enjoyed it moment to moment, the ending derailed the whole experience. A lot of loose ends got tied up nicely, but just as it seemed to be building to a satisfying epilogue, the credits rolled and then the game went back to the title screen. I did wonder if it was an issue with my specific review copy, but chatter online shows that it is still a problem with the retail version. There were still a lot of plot points that felt unanswered despite their importance, and it felt like the characters that leave at the end still had conversations that they needed to have. It was anticlimactic and left me with a negative impression of the story overall despite loving the journey up to that point.

It didn’t help that its style was so reminiscent of Detention either, as the story of that game unfolded in a way that kept me on my toes and had me asking questions. When I finished Detention, I immediately searched for interpretations online to piece together gaps in my knowledge since I knew the clues were all there, while Re:Turn left me wondering why some of the story seemed to be decoupled from the rest of the game.

The gameplay also had some issues, particularly with some puzzles that weren’t intuitive. The combination lock puzzles took a long time to figure out, and when I did there was a sense of frustration that I’d largely solved them through brute force rather than a logical train of thought. One puzzle later on that involved a scavenger hunt was also a little obnoxious to play through as it required a lot of tedious return trips. This puzzle also featured a problem where certain important clues were left out of the in-game notebook, despite almost everything else being noted there.

The game also shows obvious signs of its budget nature throughout. The dialogue boxes feel a little sloppy, and there were a few typos here and there. I also felt some of the character portraits looked a little off at times and could have done with a little polish. Again, this is a little more forgivable due to the team’s size and budget, but there were moments where it took me out of the experience a little.

That said, the actual in-game visuals are excellent. A lot of love and attention went into the game’s pixel art environments and characters and it shows. The sprite work is consistently good, and the train environment is genuinely unsettling despite the pixel limitations. The more monstrous spirits that show up are especially effective, as the animation on them is superb and the threat feels very real. It’s all first class.

Overall, I liked Re:Turn despite its flaws. I’m sad the ending didn’t quite have the satisfying conclusion I would have preferred, and the puzzles were a little too obtuse at times, but the overall experience was decent. It wouldn’t necessarily be the first game in the genre I’d choo-choose to play, but it’s still a decent little horror experience that’s pulled in just in time for Halloween.