Review – Iris.Fall (Xbox One)
Iris.Fall is an adventure puzzle game from NExT Studios that originally released back in December of 2018. Somehow, it escaped my notice at that time, which is odd considering it’s exactly the kind of game that typically catches my eye. Now that it’s finally been released on consoles, it’s gaining a resurgence in popularity. What a better time for me to shed some light on what all the fuss was about?
There’s not too much a of story in Iris.Fall, but I’ll try to explain it as best I can. You play as the titular Iris, who after waking from a troubling dream follows a black cat into a run down theater. She then goes on a strange journey through increasingly surreal levels, solving puzzles using her wits and manipulating environments with light and shadow. The further she ventures, the more truths about herself come to light.
Iris.Fall is a puzzle game with a nice variety to the challenges Iris will face. While there are some traditional puzzles to solve, like a Rubik’s Cube at one point, many areas will involve switching back and forth between the normal world and the shadow world. The objects that Iris moves in the regular world will alter the shadows seen around the rooms. She can then switch back and forth from this world and the shadow realm by interacting with books found in each area. If there’s an object she can’t access in the normal world, she can try creating a ramp to it using the shadows instead. The gameplay involving light and shadows reminded me quite a bit of Projection: First Light. Although unlike that game, this isn’t the sole mechanic used.
There is a really nice variety to the puzzles and no two are the same. Most of them are incredibly easy though, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Sometimes that can create a more mellow experience and allow accessibility to casual players. However, there are a couple of puzzle in Iris.Fall that are really difficult and have obscure solutions. Normal, non-genius players (like me) will more than likely need to look up a guide on how to get past these puzzles. Unfortunately, this kills the pacing of the game at times.
It’s unfortunate that this game suffers from pacing issues due to difficulty spikes, because the atmosphere is delightfully creepy. Iris.Fall is listed as horror game, but that’s really not the case here. It’s dark and twisted with plenty of unsettling imagery, but it’s definitely not a horror game. Think of it more as Alice in Wonderland meets Geppetto’s workshop.
The setting is littered with scores of marionettes, giant machine cogs, and twisting stairwells. As a whole, this game delivers a strong sense of unease and a dark, twisted tone. All of this is delivered by one of the most gorgeous art designs I’ve seen in a long time. It features a hand-drawn art style that is simply stunning. My one nit-pick is that the cutscenes are nowhere near as beautiful as the in-game visuals. Luckily, there aren’t too many of these to detract from the macabre feel of the rest of the game.
The sound design is done pretty well too. There’s no voice acting in Iris.Fall, but the sound effects are effective enough. The soundtrack is appropriately haunting and ominous, even if it’s not particularly memorable. You might not have the tunes lingering within your mind after you’ve stopped playing, but you’ll have felt its darkly whimsical effects during your whole playthrough. And in the end, that’s the most important factor.
Iris.Fall might not break any new ground in terms of gameplay, but what it brings to the table it does well. There are some pacing issues due to severe difficulty spikes with a couple of its puzzles, but for the most part it delivers an enjoyable (albeit short) experience. That’s another point worth mentioning; this game can easily be completed in about three to four hours. Some might think the $20 price tag is too much for such a short game, but I assure you, it’s worth falling into.
Iris.Fall is absolutely gorgeous with its hand-drawn art design. Surprisingly, the few cutscenes present in the game aren’t quite as beautiful as the in-game visuals.
This game mainly consists of various puzzles, most of which are incredibly easy. Although, there are a couple that are so contrived that you’ll more than likely need to find a walkthrough on how to get past them. Moving Iris can feel a little sluggish at times.
There’s no voice acting, but the music is haunting and fits the tone of the game well.
Fun Factor: 7.0
While I loved my time with Iris.Fall, it does suffer from pacing issues due to uneven puzzle difficulties. It’s also very short and can easily be completed in about three to four hours.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Iris.Fall is available now on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Iris.Fall was provided by the publisher.