DJ Arruda ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Taking its cues from games like Gone Home, The Novelist, and The Stanley Parable, Reflections is a game about player choice, and the consequences of those choices. While many games can make this claim, and continue to do so, Reflections seeks to stand out from the rest of them through its unique use of color to indicate when a choice a player has made will have consequences. Here is an effective and innovate way of keeping track of what impact the player is having on the narrative without having to spell it out through dialogue or text. Like other games in the same vein the player does not receive any instructions other than being informed their choices will have consequences, and from there they are free to do what they will in the world before moving onto the next act.
The player starts in their bedroom, choosing between either David or Emily as their protagonist, as well as their love interest, before being dropped in, on the eve of moving to college. As the house is explored there are a number of different things to be done, from packing up belongings, to calling a friend to say goodbye, to simply exploring the neighborhood. And the way the player chooses to go about the act will be reflected in the next one, and so on. In offering such an open canvas on which the player can paint their own narrative, the replayability and variety is massive. Some of the things players can do involve simple logic like fixing a broken calculator or repairing the water pipes, but there is also the chance to play records and interact with people in the player’s life. As the world comes more alive with color the more the player plays, there is a sense of change, a sense of meaningful player interaction in a narrative driven vehicle. While some gamers may not have the patience nor the interest to meticulously repair every object or search every room, they can still see the consequences of their disinterest in a colorless world and a second act different than a player who was a completionist. For instance, doing lots of repairs on the house in the first act will have the player renovating the same house years later as a family man in the second, a clear continuation of the character shaped in the previous act.
The beauty of the game stems from the starkness of the black and white and the color which appears out of it as the game goes on. The style is unlike other games in this way, and yet also feels familiar. The way in which the player plays the game can show a lot about them, and the fact that the entire game itself is a reflection of those choices is truly fitting, and gives the meaning to the title. The balance between narrative and gameplay is always a tough balance to strike, especially in a game so based on choice, but there is a synergy between the two here where the story is told through playing. Unlike RPGs where dialogue choices and story paths shape the world at expected moments, here everything the player does matters. Such reactivity is rare, and hard to perfect, but Broken Window Studios is definitely adding to the genre in an innovative and engaging way. Available on Steam Early Access for $10, Reflections is a worthy purchase to explore a sandbox colored by the player’s choices.