What Remains Of Edith Finch is a game about exploring an abandoned house, placing players in a curious world where everything has a deeper meaning. This already mysterious world goes a step further in including several dream and fantasy sequences, which capture the feelings of real-life dreams and help players feel what the characters are feeling.
Games struggle to convey dreams. The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind tried to capture the experience of dreaming through evocative text bubbles instead of actions. Max Payne tossed in frustrating mazes made of thin trails of blood. Neither of these manage to capture the feeling of being caught up in an imaginative experience.
What Remains Of Edith Finch focuses on the Finch family and tells the stories of their individual demises through small vignettes. Many of their stories have a focus on dreams and magic. One of the earliest sequences tells the story of the young child Molly Finch. Awakening in the middle of the night with a voracious hunger, she eats anything she can find, from toothpaste to holly berries, before transforming into a various animals. She leaps around tree branches as a cat, tumbles down a hill as a shark, and finally assumes the form of a slimy snake monster devouring humans.
The sequence is bolstered by a strong soundtrack, imaginative visuals, and gameplay that focuses on what the player is or isn’t able to do. Each moment feels distinct and offers new ways to interact with the world. Players swoop down as an owl and creep along as the monster. These mechanical shifts are surprising, fun to experience, and capture the feeling of a changing dream world where rules never last long. They help the player understand the confusion Molly must be feeling.
In another scene, Lewis Finch is at work cutting off fish heads in a cannery when he begins to imagine wild adventures. Players use one control stick to move Lewis’ hand as he slices fish and use the other stick to control his fantasy self as he journeys through imagined worlds. The sequence teters on the edge of reality and captures the intoxicating majesty of dreams by contrasting them with a dreary job that players must perform throughout the sequence. Through combining two modes of gameplay, Edith Finch helps players connect with Lewis’ mindset and allows them to experience both the drudgery of his work and the excitement of his dreams.
Edith Finch is framed as a piece of writing Edith left to her son. As a result, the world isn’t entirely literal. The Finch house is a tangled web of mazes and hidden corridors, a whimsical jungle gym of spatial design that makes no sense and make the whole game feel dream-like. The game creates a sense of wonder in both exploration and dream sequences by offering exciting changes to the gameplay that help us understand each character’s thoughts and emotions. We get to experience their dreams and hallucinations firsthand. It isn’t a text box or a clumsy maze; it’s an inviting whirl of new worlds and strange occurrences. Just like a dream.