Developer – Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher – NIS America
Platforms – Vita, PC (Reviewed)
I went into A Rose in the Twilight, not knowing what to expect. I knew it was a puzzle platformer. I knew Nippon Ichi made it. The art style drew my eye. But I wasn’t really ready for what the game was about.
A Rose in the Twilight is a puzzle platformer developed by Nippon Ichi Software of Disgaea fame. This is a very dark and disturbing take on the genre and you play a small girl named Rose and her giant partner. Deadly horrible things will happen to Rose throughout the game, and it’s part and parcel of getting through the puzzles and the castle. The entire premise is that Rose will die gruesome deaths, and she will need to die repeatedly to progress.
The main puzzle solving mechanic is by using blood to give life to objects and letting time affect it. You obtain a blood charge by absorbing it from another object that already has blood and this balancing act is another part to note when solving puzzles. While the giant can pick up objects to throw or move them. The dynamic of balancing Rose and the giant is the basis for solving the game’s puzzles.
One of the series of levels doesn’t allow you to absorb blood but instead it gives you a watercan that can be filled with blood. Doing that introduced a host of new puzzles. It kept things feeling fresh and added some variety.
It’s a slow paced game and is not meant to be rushed through. It lends to the atmospheric levels, but because of it’s slow pace, that means slow walking speed too. It can be a little frustrating if you have to restart a room. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you will be restarting rooms pretty regularly. Dying will reset items, so if you’re past a point of no return in the room but the item was reset to a previous point, you’ll have to restart the room which involves killing yourself.
Some puzzles require precision. Like when you’re supposed to stand on a very small area to avoid dying or using momentum to move a cart. But it just feels opposite of what the game is best at. Which is slow paced, atmospheric, logic puzzles.
There’s some pretty graphic imagery of the little girl being killed or committing suicide. Main doors between areas are opened by using torture or killing devices which is pretty graphic. While not much is shown, there’s implications of it, and since it’s happening to a little girl, it just adds even more to the disturbing nature of the game. But it fits in the game and doesn’t feel out of place. In fact, I would say it heightens the experience.
The beautiful part about the game however, is it’s art and storytelling. Your characters do not talk. You understand how your character is feeling through facial expressions and body language. Some backstory is also given to you by finding books and blood memories, which are special type of blood that carries the memories of the deceased. It gives a presentation of what happened before. The game combines both visual and traditional storytelling really well and was what compelled me to keep going even if some of the puzzles just feel frustratingly cheap.
The game uses a very bland colour palette. Most black, white, grey and some browns. It makes the blood stand out with its crimson red and while this is not unique and other games have done the blood red contrast before, there wasn’t another more suitable colour palette for A Rose in the Twilight.
It’s a really intriguing, dark and disturbing take on a fairy tale. It’s a tough one to recommend though, because while the main puzzle solving mechanics are interesting, the actual puzzles themselves can feel really frustrating. And for those that love a dark story, especially one that is this good and well presented, their enjoyment might be cut short by, again, the frustrating puzzles. If these are minor issues for you, I say get this game.