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A style of storytelling that is really only possible in video games is gameplay as a metaphor. It is a form of narrative that happens through interactivity and problem solving when playing the game rather than through the typical storytelling methods such as text or image. Brothers: A story of two sons has done this by controlling two brothers who work together to solve puzzles, each represented by separate pages of the controller. If one of the brothers is not around, you will not only feel this loss sensitively through writing, but also as an obstacle to gameplay, as you have practically lost half of your controller.
In A Fold Apart, the puzzles and how you solve them act as a metaphor for the two main characters who work through their fears about their relationship. The game follows what we call red and blue because they have no names and their genders can be selected by the player. Red is a teacher and blue is an architect. Both live together and are clearly very much in love.
Blue is offered a great job designing a big skyscraper, but the job takes a year and a half in a city far from red. They decide to keep their relationship apart for so long, and Blue moves away. While separated, the two communicate with text messages that are cute and loving, but then an apparently harmless phrase in a text causes one of them to get into a kind of fear spiral. This is the time when the actual puzzle is solved.
For the game's puzzles, you have to navigate one of the characters to an endpoint using different platforms. However, the characters can only run. To close the gaps, you have to fold the level. The best way to think about these puzzles is by a piece of paper. There are two sides that usually have platforms on them, and you'll need to fold the paper to align the platforms so that the character reaches the end. Initially, you can only fold the paper in the main direction, but as the game progresses, you also get a diagonal fold and the ability to rotate the paper.
Aside from the fact that the puzzles are well designed, the fascinating thing about them is how they tell the story. For each set of puzzles, usually about five, the characters work on a different message. The puzzles in a sentence get more and more difficult with increasing fear in the first few years, before becoming easier in the past few years when red and blue work things through, realizing that the message was probably not as intended as it was was read.
This helps make folding and other mechanics not only a metaphor for trying to bridge the separation of characters, but also how a person can twist and complicate things for themselves when communication breaks down. The problems that arise for red and blue, though due to their separation, are rather a lack of communication. While they have agreed to endure the separation, they cannot work through it together by not sharing their problems. It only made things worse when her fantasies and fears went wild.
All of this is also conveyed in the actual written text of A Fold Apart. But it's the mechanics and the pace of the game that help emphasize and amplify these turbulent moments. The writing and gameplay feel like they are working together towards a certain experience. It is not just a series of puzzles with a story about long-distance relationships, but a game about communication.
A fold apart was created by Lightning Rod Games. You can purchase it for $ 19.99 on Nintendo Switch and Steam (Windows) or Apple iOS with an Apple Arcade subscription. It will also be available soon for Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It takes about three to four hours to complete.