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Arise – A Simple Story preview event report


Debuting during Sony’s State of Play event, Arise – A Simple Story invoked memories of a Robin Williams film, What Dreams May Come. The story beats are there, both feature the recently deceased revisiting memories of their previous life, While the movie delves into darker themes, Arise has still not been released so it’s hard to gauge how close it will mirror the movie (It should be noted that I did mention this similarity to the developer I spoke to in which they expressed that they were not aware of the movie, and it makes sense they are from Spain where the movie might not have seen a release locally). So when publisher Techland facilitated a preview of the title at their PR company’s offices in New York City, I gladly took them up on their offer.

Arise is the first experience from Barcelona based Piccolo Studio. Founded by 3 partners who cut their teeth in the advertising business, winning accolades and earning a very comfortable living. However this lifestyle grew stale and the 3 pivoted to crafting video games. I say crafting as Piccolo Studio feels it is a better metaphor for what they are trying to accomplish and it is reflected in their logo which consists of a thread and needle. The fruits of their labor are about to be bore as Arise will be released for public consumption later this year.

The title starts on a somber note, specifically at a funeral pyre. Your protagonist aptly dubbed “The Old Man” has been released from the mortal coil and being grieved by his fellow villages before his body is set ablaze to send him into the afterlife. When you take control of the old man, you are in a sea of clouds which represents Limbo. Limbo acts as a hub world which you can traverse to access the levels of the game. For the purpose of this demo, Alexis Corominas from Piccolo Studio provided a vertical slice of the title which consisted of the 2nd and 3rd level from the retail game. While the 1st level has tutorials which explains the mechanics of the game, there were story elements that they did not want spoiled. Alexis did give a brief summary of the Old Man’s capabilities. The game’s key mechanic is a time lapse/time scrubbing. Utilizing the right stick you can either hold right to move time forward or hold left to move time backwards. The Old Man also has a grappling hook which allows him to hang on certain points and swing from them.

The 1st level of the demo was titled “Joy” and it is a brightly lit fields with bees and snails going about their business. The old man will encounter statues of two figures, one male and one female, which might be an allusion to the old man at a specific time in his life. The female figure was not identified, but I’m sure it will be fully fleshed out in the retail release. Speaking of fleshing things out, everything is conveyed with body language and the title features no audible dialogue. To further add to the minimalist presentation, the only UI elements are the occasional gameplay tips as well as highlight on grapple points. Some of the more memorable use of the time lapse ability to manipulate the direction that sunflowers (sunflowers always face the sun, so moving time will also move the sun) are facing to create platforms which you can traverse on, scrubbing time so that spider-webs are reformed so that you can reach higher locations by bounding on them like a trampoline.

The 2nd level of the demo was titled “Away” and it is the polar opposite of the previous level. Dark and gloomy, the landscape is constantly trying to pull itself apart and will continue to pull away even as reverse time to pull it back together. The level feature more skill based traversal as falling debris will not stop once you finished using your time lapse abilities. A new mechanic is introduced that will allow you to hold “time” in place. The statues of the male and female figure are back, although they have aged to around to their teenage years. During my traversal of this darker level, I noticed glowing pixie-like figures littered throughout the landscape. These figures are collectibles for the game and they serve to unlock memories. These memories will flesh out the story of the level in a storybook like manner.

Time ran out before I was able to complete “Away” however I was able to chat with Alexis to find out additional features of the title. One was the inclusion of Local Multiplayer to the title. The first player will control the Old Man and the second player will control the time lapse. The team opted to have it be local to reduce trolling and to offer an easier what would be a passive viewer an opportunity to take part in the action. I was also to deduce what movie the team did take inspiration from when crafting Arise, but I will let players figure it out on their own. Arise is a very chill experience that is trying to tell a story about the human experience, I would liken this to That Game Company’s Journey.

Players can join the Old Man as he reminisces about his life when Arise – A Simple Story comes out on Playstation 4, Xbox and PC (via the Epic Game Store) on December 3rd 2019. Players who pre-order the title will receive the soundtrack for the title which is composed by David Garcia, whose previous works include music for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Rime.