Review – To Leave

To Leave is a psychedelic nightmare. Developed by Freaky Creations, To Leave is an artistic expression of escapism and overcoming grief represented by psychedelic visuals and music, whose gameplay is that of an over-glorified, mind-numbing, pretentious Flappy Bird. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop feeling as if To Leave was an angsty programmer’s final art project.

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The hand-drawn art style is a welcome distraction from the otherwise bleak atmosphere.

To Leave opens with a collection of ambiguous and confusing cut scenes featuring a boy named Harm, barricaded in his apartment. What follows is a drawn out sequence where Harm starts cooking up a psychedelic concoction, drinks it, makes out with an ethereal pink fairy, and then vomits his way back into reality. After a few brief moments of linear gameplay that left me wondering when I would finally have the opportunity to play To Leave and experience what it was was all about, I questioned why anyone would make such a convoluted game. On the positive side, my roommates were quite entertained as they watched me squirm and, like an old man, asked my t.v. what the hell was going on.

Sony’s blog describes To Leave as “An experimental game about mental illness, and finding peace within and without.” After playing games like That Dragon, CancerHellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and Night in the Woods, I’ve become fascinated by the way developers and story tellers have begun to address important issues through gaming in a manner that engages players. Thinking that To Leave would be a similar experience, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review it. But lengthy opening cutscenes and drug induced fever dreams only made me want to put the game down for good. Why did I reluctantly continue? For no other reason than because I mistakenly committed to writing this review.

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Never drink absinthe.

While it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting from To Leave, it absolutely improved. The story didn’t interest me at all, but the experience evolved into something that was at least tolerable. As players progress beyond the lengthy intro, To Leave introduces the primary game mechanics at a snail’s pace.

Harm’s task is to explore the world beyond his magical flying door and reactivate temples designed to harvest nearby souls. In order to reach and discover each temple, Harm has to use his magic door to fly around a magical world, being careful not to collide with obstacles or the environment around him. Should Harm’s Magical Flying Door touch another object, it will disappear into thin air, taking Harm with it.

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I often wonder if the door and Puff the magic dragon are related.

To Leave is best compared to an artistic rendition of Flappy Bird. Each stage becomes exponentially more difficult than the last one, with very little reward. As players progress their way through the game’s challenging stages, each new level plunges Harm deeper into his own psyche. The farther down the rabbit hole he goes, the more twisted and overwhelming the world becomes. A house party where every smiling face becomes a scowl as Harm gets closer, bullies that relentlessly pursue him, and giant crystals that suck the life out of Harm.

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The best of homeopathic aging treatments.

To be clear, I don’t hate To Leave. It is a technically sound game that could definitely find a home among a specific audience. Perhaps best suited to mobile platforms for those long subway rides. But with a $20 price tag on a home console, To Leave is best to leave alone.

Graphics: 8.0

Abstract visuals give players the best glimpse into Harm and the experiences that brought him to this place.

Gameplay: 6.5

Gameplay is simple and easy to pick up, but too monotonous to be enjoyable. Objectively successful.

Sound: 7.0

To Leave‘s music becomes increasingly trippy as the game progresses.

Fun Factor: 3.0

Like any mobile title, I found myself mindlessly playing out of sheer boredom, enjoying little else than having something to do with my rainy afternoon.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Reviewed on PS4.
To Leave is available now on Playstation 4 with versions for PC, Mac, and Linux on the way. 

A copy of To Leave was provided by the publisher.