While a little rough around the edges, A Fold Apart is a solid puzzle game.
Title: A Fold Apart
Developer: Lightning Rod Games
Publisher: Lightning Rod Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on), PS4, Xbox One, PC, Apple Arcade
Release Date: April 16, 2020
It’s hard to distance oneself from the world along with all the life that resides in it. Whether it be the unprecedented pandemic or equally important civil unrest, I’ve found it hard to care about the same things I usually care about. Whether it’s movies, tv, reading, or even video games, I find that there’s no easy place for sanctity. Maybe there shouldn’t be; in fact, I’d like to say I know there shouldn’t be. Even still, I can’t help but try.
A Fold Apart from Lightning Rod Games is a game that, while hardly perfect, I am grateful for. It’s a simple game that follows a simple premise and is done so in perhaps the most classic gaming genre of all: puzzles. It’s a puzzle game that follows a couple struggling to keep their connection with one another strong despite being separated. Despite being a chubby schmuck who’s never had anything close to a romantic relationship, I can imagine that this struggle is one that rings true for many people, especially in a COVID-19 world. In a lot of ways, A Fold Apart is an incredibly appropriate game for the times we’re in, even if it doesn’t always have the level of polish and depth that I would’ve liked.
The game’s tale is told like something of a children’s picture book, following a teacher and an architect that are in the midst of a long-distance relationship following the latter’s acceptance of a new job. Playing as each of them, you engage in some back-and-forth text message conversations that, after a particularly gutting or triggering message, essentially sends the characters spiraling into self-conscious think-spaces. These spaces are where the gameplay takes place, and it’s your job to use your big — or, in my case, small — brain to figure out a series of paper-folding puzzles that will allow you to advance deeper into the relationship and story.
The puzzles in A Fold Apart are fairly clever, for the most part. The main gimmick of folding different areas of the paper you’re traversing through works fairly well. One of my favorite things about puzzle games is when completing each puzzle — to which A Fold Apart boasts more than fifty of — feels as satisfying as anything. I can certainly say that is true here as well, and there’s a fun artistic quality to literally folding the screen to suit your needs and advance. Plus, obstacles and other features get introduced along the way, like movable blocks and disappearing platforms, that make the puzzles stay fresh.
But if there is a complaint I have about the gameplay, it’s that there were times I felt the game didn’t properly build-up to or explain how you’re supposed to solve certain puzzles. Eventually, I discovered different strategies for myself, but I couldn’t help but feel like there were moments that my immense frustration spawned from rather lackluster tutorials or explanations. Again, this could all have to do with my aforementioned small brain, but it’s worth mentioning.
One thing I did wholly appreciate, however, was that you can choose any gender partnership you’d like. As a straight male, I found this to be a small, albeit welcoming, feature of the game. I say straight male facetiously, as I’m self-aware enough to know the value of small gestures like this even though they have nothing to do with my own identity. You should always want and cherish underrepresented identities showcased in games and stories. This is obviously not to say that A Fold Apart is the most progressive game I’ve ever seen in my life, but I appreciate how simple and inoffensive of a gesture it is.
So the core theme of its story is spicy, and puzzles are yummy, but A Fold Apart does feel like it’s lacking a bit of polish. I don’t necessarily mean “polish” as in glitchy or unresponsive as is most commonly described in games-media vernacular, but instead in terms of the energy and vibe of the game as a whole. There’s a lack of a certain spark with everything that’s going on, in terms of aesthetic depth and tonal changes. Sure, I could complain that I’d like if the characters didn’t walk so slow and that the framerate didn’t dip during some of the cutscenes, but it’s more than that.
The art style, while neat, doesn’t feel like it truly feels alive. Things feel floaty, almost empty at times. I wish that the imaginary think spaces of the characters as they come to grips with the tumultuous nature of relationships had a little more, for a lack of a better (or less-naughty) term, of a bang. I wanted the environments to feel less like random crevices and more like fully-realized worlds, which perhaps may too much of an ask, but I digress.
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I also couldn’t help but feel like the writing could’ve used a bit more of a punch. Not to say that the most wholesome and basic conversations are something that should be mocked, but it left a lot to be desired. Perhaps my experience with Afterparty has left me unfairly jilted in terms of what dialogue in a relationship-based game should entail, but I can’t help it. I understand and respect the idea of relationships, generally, from A Fold Apart, I just wish that the specific example being used drew me in more. Instead of satisfaction coming almost entirely from the feeling of solving a puzzle you agonized over, it could’ve also been equally as satisfying to see how this relationship unfolded.
But despite what my somewhat pretentious critiques of A Fold Apart might suggest, it’s a decent game that works well with what it does actually have. The puzzles are engaging, even if a bit frustrating, and the narrative structure and aesthetic feels like a solid one to accompany you given the times we’re in. We’ve all got our personal strife and journeys going on, so keep on keeping on, players.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.