Review – 7 Days to End With You (Switch)
Language is, inherently, a beautiful and complex thing that makes me appreciate how truly diverse humanity can be. When you need multiple words to express a singular thought in another language, it states the importance of that idea or concept to those people. It’s also won when we then ape those words from other languages, because English is a flawed stack of stolen flashcards that we just grabbed from kids during passing period in junior high, but we present them with such confidence the teacher just gives up and gives us a solid C-. I love my native language, but it only takes studying one other language any period of time to see how bizarre some linguistic choices were in setting foundations of grammar and spelling.
Which brings us to 7 Days to End With You, an indie title from Lizardry and published by Playism. In this story puzzler, you play a seemingly nameless protagonist, who awakens in a house with no memory of who they are, how they got there, or who is the woman sitting over them when they awaken. The woman begins speaking and, surprise, you can’t understand a word that comes out of her mouth.
What happens next is a series of interpretations and guesses to connect what you see and read to what you believe to be correct words. As the woman answers questions, describes objects and escorts you about the house, the story unfolds, sometimes logically, sometimes ludicrously. What is the purpose of all these books and plants? Why won’t she let you leave the house? And what is happening at the end of each day as your body becomes heavier and heavier?
Lizardy has done a very interesting thing with 7 Days to End With You by crafting a game that, in theory, is accessible to all people. The speaking style of the woman is in clipped syntax, usually one to three words, which makes a majority of your exploration focus on vocabulary and, thankfully, not on full fledged grammar points. The symbols that are spoken are a dainty set of unicode characters with some choice alterations, so everything looks both familiar and different at the same time.
Whenever you encounter a word, you can click on it (joystick and button, no touch screen) to bring up your living dictionary and give that word your own interpretation. Besides a definition, you can also add color to words if the way something comes across has a tonality to it. For example, the woman’s facial expressions will change slightly with some words, which can give a proper vibe of pink, blue, or another tone to help give you an idea of what’s being said, if not exactly what is said.
The pixel aesthetic is beautiful for 7 Days to End With You, and I think it helps to capture so much of the fuzzy ideology of the world around you. By using traditional design ploys, the player is in a position where everything they see is slightly out of focus, like it’s almost remembered but not quite. The choice to keep everything a bit obfuscated is a smart one, with things only appearing clearly after YOU have marked them with your interpretive choice of word. Is it correct? Is it even vaguely accurate? Doesn’t matter: you’ve made the decision, and now this word exists under your label until you decide otherwise.
Aacing, the title of the game feels like a little bit of a misnomer. Ultimately, the seven days until the game ends is something entirely controlled by a player. As a puzzle game, what appears to be a very widely spread game in terms of exploration and interaction are actually boiled down to a matter of patience. You can click on the same objects multiple times to get answers, and very rarely will the answers change (the one exception I found was “poking” the woman multiple times).
There’s a bit of a mini game that occurs where you can mix together plants and ingredients in what I assumed was cooking, and that yielded further statements that got you to “success” and “failure” adjacent ideas. You can sit down to talk with the woman or have her sit down and you can look around the house yourself. Ending the day is entirely up to you: there’s nothing about hunger or stamina that forces you to end a day, but you will have a dream sequence that will concretely unlock another word.
That’s something that I sort of hated about 7 Days to End With You. So much of the game is open to interpretation, but it is, as predicted, driving the player in a specific direction. The words that you get from the dreams are very direct: if you choose the wrong word, the player lets you know as such, but also doesn’t let you choose a new word. You just move forward with the wrong goddamn vocabulary at hand, and it can be quite crucial to figuring out the final aspects of the game. So, as much as you need to analyze and deduce some words, you have these pivotal, emotional words that are a make or break to letting the ending make sense, and even that’s a bit subjective.
Also, for English speakers, you need to understand that Lizardry is a Japanese dev, and, though the game has been localized for English, the approach of the game is very, very Japanese. The shortened words and ideas means thinking in Japanese ideas, such as repeating the same word back to convey comprehension. As a child, if someone asked us “Are you okay?” we might say “okay” instead of “yes” or “no.” But in Japanese, it’s very common to respond to daijoubu? With a reiteration of the same, because uttering yes or no could come across as curt.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but this general approach is necessary for some important communication moments, and misunderstanding leads to things going nowhere, or, worse, just ending the interactions with no forward momentum. In short, a game about gleaning knowledge is hamstrung if you don’t already understand how a different language words to begin with.
The porting choice for the Switch to not have touch control just doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. 7 Days to End With You already exists as a smartphone game, and being able to tap through words and add them directly feels significantly more intuitive, so why can’t I do that here? Of course, when you add a word, the keyboard pops up and allows you to type, and I get that’s a systemwide accessible point, but it takes you out of the flow to need to be playing handheld and keep needing to move around with the joystick and buttons to do these interactions.
Thankfully, 7 Days to End With You is a cumulative experience: even if you get to the end of the seven days and get a game over, you can restart with your words banked and ready to go. It gives a new perspective on the opening moments as ideas are clearer from the start, and you learn more and more with each passing opportunity. The whole journey does lead to a rather depressing conclusion, and it’s a final one. So players who are hoping to suss out the full picture should know there’s only one, and, once you achieve it, that’s it. With no achievements on the Switch and no real purpose for replay, when you’ve gotten this figured out, that’s the end of the journey.
Still, despite the hiccups and flawed port, 7 Days to End With You is unique and intriguing. It’s a wonderful puzzle journey that takes you in a different direction than you’d might expect, and it tries some bold concepts with varying degrees of success. I hope that we see further building on this idea from Lizardry in the future: a version with voices might actually be better, since I’m more of an audio learner than a visual. But, as it stands, this experiment in connection and communication is neither satisfying nor dissatisfying: it simply is, and I can appreciate it as such.
Fuzzy pixel graphics give the vibe of distortion and recall uncertainty, matching the tonality of the game and its intentions wonderfully.
A puzzle experience that gradually gets sharper the more you explore, hamstrung by input issues and a purposely obtuse approach for your first couple of “runs.”
A very mild and ambient background soundtrack that is neither memorable nor off-putting. It’s clear music was not the intention of the game, and, as such, I barely noticed it either.
While I was frustrated initially, I grew to have better focus and connection as the game renewed, and, in the end, I could appreciate what had happened, even if the path there was a bit obtuse.
Final Verdict: 6.0
7 Days to End With You is available now on PC, Android, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of 7 Days to End With You was provided by the publisher.