Game Review: Arise: A Simple Story

There’s something about a story-driven, adventure-platformer that I find hard to resist. Especially if it’s a beautiful and calming game that slowly draws you in before drowning you in its charm. Developer Piccolo Studio and publisher Techland are the teams behind Arise: A Simple Story, a delightful little game that delivers on so much of what I adore.

Embark on an emotional journey of losing the love of one’s life. Manipulate time, solve puzzles, reshape surroundings as you push forward into the bittersweet recollections of a past life. This is a story about happiness and hardship, joy and sorrow. A story that all of us will one day experience.

How to start this review? I guess at the start… with you being dead. Yup, you play as an older and recently deceased man. The intro to the game shows your tribe burning your body after death. Cremated, and dearly missed, you find yourself in the afterlife and reliving important events of your life. Each level of the game is a representation of important moments from your character’s life, starting out with childhood and progressing through to his teenage years, adulthood, old age and, of course, eventual death. As you make your way through the game and its levels, you learn a little bit more about your character’s life. The narrative of the game is slowly revealed and all without heavy use of text or voice acting.


Arise: A Simple Story is a very visual game and those visuals are used brilliantly to portray the events of the character’s life. For example, those earlier childhood levels are full of bright, playful imagery and cover happiness and innocence. The more adult-themed levels are not as ‘flowery’ and deal with loneliness and darker themes. Then the level that explores reproduction, birth and fatherhood is more ‘fallopian tubey’. The art design of each level is wonderful and the visuals are used fantastically well to tell you the story of life.

But enough of how this game looks, how does it play? Well, what you have with Arise: A Simple Story is a platformer with a bit of an interesting twist. You’ll be doing all the usual stuff such as climbing, jumping and all of that, you even get to use a grappling hook to swing over gaps. But thrown into the mix is the ability to manipulate time. Control your character with the left stick, as is the norm for a platforming game. But the right stick controls time to rewind or fast forward time around you. See, your character is unaffected by the time control but the environment isn’t. The controlling of time changes the levels in many ways. You can make sunflowers follow the sun to be used as platforms. Use your grappling hook to latch onto a bee, then forward or reverse time to make the bee fly you around. Water levels rise and lower platforms as you adjust and tinker with the world around you and so much more.


Each level of the game is not only a visual treat that helps tell the story of your character’s life, each level also throws new and interesting ways to use this time manipulation to your advantage. Arise: A Simple Story is a simple game, in that it doesn’t try to do anything too demanding. You’ll pick up the controller, spend 2 minutes getting used to everything and that’ll be it, you’ll be 100% comfortable with what you are meant to be doing. I don’t think I could ever call the game ‘hard’ either, nor is it meant to be. This is a lovingly casual trip through life, stopping off at all of the important milestones that we all look back on fondly as we get older.

You also get a large dose of emotion thrown in. Playing through Arise: A Simple Story, I just could not help but think about people in my life, my family and friends. People who are no longer in my life and those I have lost over the years. Family members and friends who have sadly passed away. This game had me reflecting on personal relationships that failed, as well as those that worked. It had me looking at the kind of father I am and aim to be. There is something here that plays on your emotions and offers a great depth of storytelling… all without any dialogue.


Around £16 is what Arise: A Simple Story is going to cost you. For that, you get 10 levels and around 5 to 6 hours before you’ll see the end credits. However, there are some hidden and sentimental collectables that you can find, which help to flesh out some backstory. If you want to get the most out of this, and I really do suggest that you do, you can add a few more hours to that playtime. Arise: A Simple Story is stunningly beautiful to look at, one of the most attractive games I have played in a good while, in fact. With levels and a narrative that can really hit you on a personal level. Do you know what? I even had a tear in my eye as I played.

Game Review: Golf Club Wasteland

“Golf Is A Good Walk Spoiled”

A quote often attributed to Mark Twain. However, there has been plenty of debate as to just where that quote originally came from. Anyway, the origins of the quote are not really that important. What is important is that whoever was responsible for the quote had obviously never played Golf Club: Wasteland from developer Demagog Studio and publisher Untold Tales.

Yes, this is golf, but with a very unique twist. First, the story. Oh yeah, there’s a story for a golf game:

“The rich fled to Mars but venture back to a desolate Earth for a round of golf. Each hole in the wasteland offers its own little story and possible puzzle to sink the perfect shot. Play through destroyed brutalist monuments, crumbling shopping malls, and abandoned museums as neon signs and poignant graffiti take swings at current events, Silicon Valley culture and humanity.”

So yeah, Earth has been abandoned with humans now living on Mars. Over the years, Earth has become derelict and the planet has been turned into a golf course for the super-rich to play on. You play as Charley, a keen and lone golfer who travels to Earth for a round of golf. The ‘courses’ in the game play more like crazy golf than real golf… well I think ‘effing crazy golf would be much more apt. The basics of golf still apply here, in that you have to put the ball in the hole on par or under. But those pars really can range from a ‘normal’ par 3 to a WTF par 20. 


The courses here take place in and around the ruins of Earth. There really is a wide variety of holes (thirty-five) to play on too that will keep you more than busy. Courses include abandoned supermarkets, offices, hospitals and more. All while very familiar and famous landmarks in the background give away exactly where you are in the world. Yet, Earth has drastically changed since it was abandoned and you’ll see plenty of sights that will be very new to your eyes… like cows with glowing purple udders. The controls here are very simple, you aim your shot and whack the ball with the press of a button… that’s it. 

But it’s not just about putting a ball into a hole over dozens of very crazy courses, there’s a story going on too. I’m not going to spoil the story here but there are two ways that you unravel what has been going on. First, if you get the ball in the hole on or under par, you’re given a little diary entry to read. Secondly, there’s a radio station being broadcast from Mars that fills you in on the backstory too. Oh, I almost forgot that you unlock a comic to read when you finish the game too. All of these things add up to reveal a story that holds a few little secrets.


The courses get increasingly more elaborate as you go from an easy par 3s to rather insane par 20s. Obstacles that hinder your route become more complex and the courses turn into a real test of patience. This is crazy golf with a huge emphasis on the crazy bit. Control-wise, you use the left stick to aim and adjust your power, then hit the ball at the tap of a button. There’s no club selection or anything like that. Just like real crazy golf, it strips the sport down to its bare basics as you try to put the ball in the hole. Hit the ball in a water hazard or similar and it’ll just appear back at your feet, ready for you to try the shot again. This is simple and very straightforward golfing.  

As fun and simple as Golf Club: Wasteland is, I felt it had a few niggles. There is no way to fine-tune your aim and having to use the stick to aim and select your power at the same time means a lot of jittering about. This leads to some imprecise shots in a game where precision is key. The courses soon become a constant trial and error thing as opposed to the use of actual skill. Some of the shots you need to make will have you needing the landing the ball on very small ledges with precise chip shots and so on, this is why the one stick to aim and select power control becomes annoying.


Some of the longer courses just become tiresome more than fun to play as that trial and error gameplay begins to grate. You can restart any course you like, but to that, you need to pause the game. When you pause, the game does this little animation and scrolls upwards and as you will need to restart courses a lot, it just gets on your nerves having to go through the same little animation over and over and over. I mean, the game only uses one stick and one button to aim and shoot, I’m pretty sure the devs could’ve included a quick-restart button. The UI is the absolute bare minimum and I think it could do with just a bit more detail, like numbers that appear for your shot angle and power. The par of the holes does not appear on the screen either, you have to pause the game (and go through that animation over and over and over).


So time for my final judgement and for that, I need to look at how much Golf Club: Wasteland is being sold for. Around £7:19-£8:39 (very strange pricing) is the answer to that, depending on the format. That is a low price, no doubt about it. The story is great and probably the best part of the game. The golfing though… it just gets too annoying, to be honest. The concept of a really crazy, crazy golf game is brilliant but the niggles I mentioned are hard to ignore. If the aiming and power were controlled separately, if there were digits that indicated your shot angle and power, that would make the game so much more playable and far less trial and error. Still, for the price, you can’t really grumble. There’s a lot of golfing action here, even if some of the longer courses can get boring. I can’t outright recommend this one, but I’m not going to damn the game either. It just needs some tweaks and this could be a fantastic fantastical golf game.