Well would you look at me, reviewing yet another game that no one ever heard of. I can hear it now. I just know a whole bunch of people are going to say “why don’t you cover something that people actually care about?” Well, mysterious hypothetical voices I just made up, clearly I review obscure games to show how much smarter and edgier I am than everyone else. That’s how it works, right? The less people like something, the better it is, of course!
Yeah, it’s quite obvious I’m doing a gag, but I can’t really think of a punch line. Anyway, this is After Life – Story of a Father. It’s pretty damn good actually. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anyone talk about this game, as it’s up there with To the Moon in terms of emotional, tear jerking indie games with no real gameplay. This game really shouldn’t be “just another obscure indie game.” We have something truly special with this one. Considering that it’s free to play, there isn’t any excuse to skip out on this one.
After Life – Story of a Father is about Rick Dennehy, a father who dies in a car accident at the start of the game. The game takes place as Rick’s spirit finishes his remaining business on earth, before he moves onto the after life. This game is split into four chapters, each of which take place at a different point in Rick’s life cycle. Over the course of all four chapters, you here several different monologues from Rick’s friends and family, each of which paint a vivid picture of his life and how he effected them.
It is remarkable how well developed these characters were given this game’s short length. After Life – Story of a Father is one of those games that knows how to set a sentimental mood. Every character gives an amazing voice performance, the music is beautiful and emotional, and even the visuals ooze with sentimentality. I can’t explain how they do, but seeing a single screenshot of this game makes me emotional. The presentation and aesthetic choices in this game are perfect, and it knows how to pull at the heart strings just right.
It has been quite a long time since I’ve played a game that genuinely made me cry. I don’t just mean that “a single tear drop fell down my eye” shit. I mean full on “can’t stop” ugly crying that goes on for like 20 minutes. The moment that did it? It was in the final chapter, where it shows how the family has moved on since Rick’s death. How everything changed, and has adjusted to life without him, yet there’s still an empty hole in everyone’s heart where Rick used to be. This was already sad enough, but what really got past my defenses, was that the dog got a monologue. The poor boy didn’t realize that Rick was gone, and he waits for Rick to come home every day, and he thinks the mail man took him away. This built off of a humorous bit from a previous chapter about the dog being nervous about the mail man. Even the humor in this game is sad, and I don’t even want to spoil the saddest part of this game. You just need to play it for yourself.
But yes, I’m sure it’s amusing to see edgy shitposting lady Annie Gallagher, writing about how much this sappy indie game made her cry. And it’s ironic, since I used to despise environmental narrative games like this. I mean, I still don’t like Dear Esther or Gone Home (although I may need to revisit the latter because my old review of it was garbage), but this game first made it on my radar specifically because it’s premise looked like it was highly emotional. It looks like I was right on the money.
While the story being told is absolutely amazing, I unfortunately have to admit that the interface… is kinda shit. “Gameplay” basically consists of slowly floating towards green lights where you will hear a monologue, and continually getting lost. This is even more frustrating due to the game’s draw distance, and the amount of dust, fog and darkness that makes exploration difficult. I also don’t get why you couldn’t let Rick fly through walls or barriers. What is the point of designing the game this way, it you won’t even embrace the advantages of it?
All of this means that half the time spent on this game will be you wandering aimlessly to find out where you need to go. It’s even worse because there’s no save function. This means that you can’t close the game mid-chapter and continue where you left back, and instead need to start the chapter all over again.Thankfully, there are videos of just the cutscenes on Youtube, and that’s probably the best way to experience the game.
Whichever way you decide to, it’s highly recommended that you check this out if you are looking for a highly emotional story to hear. It is unfortunate that developer Green Sawdust hasn’t made anything since then, because this game could have been a hit if it wasn’t for the screwy interface. Even with said interface, After Life – Story of a Father is definitely worthwhile, and is one that should be remembered fondly.
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