Despite the fact that I don’t particularly enjoy extremely difficult games, I still try to experience them and do my best to understand the value in providing an especially taxing experience. For games like Bloodborne and Nioh, it’s easy to see the appeal, but what about 2D platformers? These games have always been notoriously difficult.
To Leave is no exception, and it’s a game that proudly boasts that it will challenge your skills, but this is juxtaposed with a story and atmosphere that begs a softer touch. Do these two conflicting feelings mesh well together? Let's find out if you should stay or leave yourself.
Unique and Existential Storytelling
To Leave has one of the more unique storylines I’ve seen in recent memory. Everything from the objective to the world, to the writing, is all far more profound and existential than I would have ever guessed from a 2D platformer.
You play as Harm, a young man who is seeking to power something called The Origin Gate. He believes that opening this will send the souls of his world to a better place than they are now. This concept of ascension and escape really feels necessary when you see the state of both his apartment and the contents of his journal.
There is a lot of story in To Leave, and while some game journalists have said the story is too vague, I’m curious if they actually went back and read all of Harm’s journal entries. Not only does he keep up with commentary on events as you activate the harvesting temples, but if you scroll backward, you’ll find a huge wealth of journal entries from long before the game’s beginning.
These journal entries are handwritten works of art that invoke eloquent language and a distinct voice in the writing. They are beautiful to read, and while they do have some lofty concepts, I believe they did an excellent job of fleshing out the world, Harm’s motivations, and the goals for his journey.
Now, that being said, it was a lot of reading. It helps that you can zoom in on the pages and read them from your couch, but moving through these journal entries is like reading a small book before you actually start playing, to be ready to read a lot if you want the full story.
While most games would have left this out entirely, I am very happy to see such rich detail to the story, but I wonder if many gamers will take the time to read all of these musings from the main character. It would have been better to incorporate more of these into the game, especially given the beautifully animated cutscenes, but I imagine this would have been costly for the game’s budget.
So, with a beautiful and unique story under its belt, let us see how To Leave fares in the gameplay department.
A Sharp Difficulty Curve
The gameplay in To Leave is simple to pick up and understand, but after the game’s first half, it becomes incredibly difficult to master its final stages. By sacrificing a piece of his soul, Harm can enter a magic door and fly it through the various levels to reach the Harvesting Temples.
Since you’re hanging on to the flying door, you’ll need to press and hold the X button to go up and release it when you need to descend. Thankfully, the controls here are quite responsive, but touching anything in the environment, even the walls, will immediately send you back to a checkpoint.
This difficult maneuvering combines with a system that dictates how long you can spend in a level before being pulled back through the door. Collecting blue flames and spirits will boost this meter, but if you get stuck on a certain section and continuing trying until your time runs out, you’ll be forced to do the entire level over again from the beginning.
The game’s initial levels offer a fair bit of challenge, but once you hit he halfway point the difficulty spikes. Environments become more complicated and moving obstacles increase exponentially. There are times where you’ll feel like you’re trying to navigate the onslaught of a boss in a bullet hell shooter.
Given the lofty and profound nature of the story and world, it’s very important that players finish To Leve to get the entire experience, but this massive upturn in difficulty means that many players will never finish it, simply because the odds are so far in the game’s favor that it becomes more frustrating than fun.
In this case, I would have liked to see a story mode that tones down the difficulty, while also offering the standard experience for players who want to be punished by the brutal levels. Even something as simple as being able to take 3 hits before being sent back would have gone a long way towards ensuring players finish the story.
As it stands the game controls fine, but the difficulty curve is simply too steep to fully enjoy the game’s world and profound story.
To Leave is a visually stunning game. The animated cutscenes, in particular, are extremely well done, but there’s also a cohesive style that runs through the game’s levels and environments. It’s a mixture of science fiction with a dash of fantasy for good measure, and it really works from a visual standpoint.
It’s a shame that the game’s difficulty is at odds with its own story and vision, but if you’re alright with a heavy challenge, To Leave is one platformer you should absolutely check out.
Final Score: 7.0/10
A copy of To Leave was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
/Insert date - 7/10/18