In the last few weeks of 2020, we saw quite a few conversions of indie titles that were former PC exclusives. It’s only fitting that we kick of 2021 with another excellent example: Iris.Fall from NExT Studios, which is now available for all of the current Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo consoles – our test was on a PlayStation 4.
I like puzzle games in general, but I have an especially soft spot for ones that have a unique visual style to them. While abstract puzzles are great too (Active Neurons is one that I recently played), visually pleasing examples tend to stick better in my memory. Of course Limbo is a go-to example, but I’ve enjoyed a lot of lesser-known titles like The Bridge or Escape Plan for that reason as well – and Iris.Fall is a great modern addition to that list.
Although it’s over two years old as a PC title, Iris.Fall hasn’t lost any of its visual shine, with influences from the likes of Escher, graphic novels and fairytales like Alice in Wonderland. Combined with the visual style of games like Machinarium and a striking black and white aesthetic, it’s a narrative-drive puzzle adventure that tells its story without having to rely on written or spoken text.
In a familiar twist (if you read through the inspirations above), protagonist Iris follows a black cat through a dreamlike environment, which is filled with puzzles to stop her from progressing. Each puzzle is a visual scene that tells part of the story, and the objectives and mechanics of each puzzle are different. Iris.Fall doesn’t use a core mechanic to build on that with ever more complex adaptations of that concept, but mixes up its conundrums with a host of familiar and novel puzzle elements.
Over the course of the (somewhat short) game, you’ll be triggering switches, moving staircases, shifting blocks and evading enemies, so as long as you don’t get stumped by a particular puzzle it’s a non-stop tale that’s as fun to play as it is so watch. Odds are that you’ll run into a few puzzles that feel more obtuse than you want though, which can break the narrative flow for a moment. Most experienced puzzle gamers shouldn’t run into too many of these moments though, and will definitely enjoy the way Iris plays around with concepts of light and shadows as she moves through the dream world she’s in.
The controls for Iris.Fall couldn’t be simpler, with much of the action mapped to the thumbstick and a single action button. You also have access to an inventory for objects that you need to pick up to get past some of the puzzles, but despite the dynamic visuals and ever-changing dreamscape the challenge here is purely cerebral in nature.
Despite the firm emphasis on puzzles, what will stick with you most is the gorgeous audiovisual presentation. I didn’t think the puzzle design was as good as that in something like Unravel (another puzzler with a strong visual style), but if you enjoyed games like Unravel, Limbo or Inside for their visual storytelling, you’ll want to check out Iris.Fall as another great new addition to the genre. Despite some obtuse puzzle designs, it’s a journey well worth undertaking.