Green Man Gaming / Red Ego (studio)
14 October 2020 (released)
17 October 2020
Since we're not getting a Silent Hill game for quite some time, or ever for that matter, it's up to indie developers to create new successors in the creepy as s*** horror genre. Over the last ten years, we've had the likes of Lone Survivor and Lost In Vivo to help us along the way, but recently, more and more developers have dived right into the style of horror made famous by Korean/Japanese horror films which then inspired the likes of Silent Hill. Re:Turn - One Way Trip is a dark journey of innocence lost, redemption and suffering while all taking place on the most delightful and creepiest abandoned train!
Does it manage to deliver the goods?
Re:Turn – One Way Trip is the tale of five college friends during a post-graduation camping trip into the woods. They laugh, reflect on their friendship through the good old times and consider what the future has install for them. Unfortunately for them, the night will have a rather disturbing turn and their lives will be changed forever.
Players will take on the role of Saki, a mild-mannered, yet kind soul who is in a committed relationship with her long term boyfriend. However, late one night, Saki's boyfriend manages to start an argument with another male friend in the group, accusing him of trying to take Saki away from him. The group split up and Saki is left on her own. As the hours' pass, Saki realises her friends have not returned from their search for the lost friend. She goes out searching for them and is soon lured to an abandoned train in the middle of the forest. It stands before her, as though it has been waiting, waiting for a new passenger to board.
Board into a terrifying nightmare... (Terrible pun, I know. More coming)
Saki must search the train for her friends, but along the way becomes involved in a paranormal event which sees here crossing the barrier between the past and the present starts, to a time when the train was active and not so decayed and haunted. Saki will experience otherworldly horrors, traumatic events that will test her friendship and relationship, and a sinister force that is hellbent on tormenting her.
Re:Turn was penned by David Bergantino (writer of horror novels, Game design consultant writer, worked with leading horror veterans past and present and all-round fascinating dude!), and you can tell this was written by no average game writer. What we have here is a pretty compelling tale of horror, lost love and redemption. While the setup is nothing new, the character development, pacing, and some payoffs are solid. I found myself really liking Saki as she developed from a shy and quiet young woman to a person taking charge and not backing away no matter what. The mystery behind the train is intriguing and the flashes to the pass which develop the story/mystery further are very engaging.
What does fail Re:Turn as a compelling narrative is it's ending. After a few hours of being massively invested with this tale and Saki, the game just ends on a rather "Meh" note. It doesn't feel as though the journey was it for this ending. Saki gets a rather good character arc and resolution but everything else is left on a side burner and not resolved in any satisfying way. I did like one aspect of the end and it was really Saki which made it have some substance. But we don't learn anything or get closure on so many other things. Like who was the main antagonist? You can guess early on (and from the promo art) that a sinister little girl is behind all that's happening ... but we don't know why. Vengeful spirit? Demonic a****hole? What?! We just don't know. That and other things are not concluded and for such an emotional trip at times, it falls flat for the end.
Re:Turn is a 2D, pixel art survival horror, that sees players as Saki, exploring a decaying and haunted train. The objective is to find your friends, discover what happened to the train and its passengers all the while trying to fend off the forces of darkness.
There is plenty of exploration and puzzle-solving to do onboard the train. New areas open up as you discover your friends and Saki will venture to the past in a bod to find out what really happened. The timeline is split between the present and 1944, during the Second World War. This helps out a lot with pacing, as players will see the train from two different perspectives and complete a number of tasks that vary and different from each setting.
Players will need to explore and collect key items, combine items to create new ones, solve challenging puzzles, and from time to time avoid a big nasty monster. There is no combat as the game is more focused on its story and lateral elements, which is fine, but there is an odd set piece here and a QTE there for elevating the panic and dread for a few brief moments.
The atmosphere and intensity is pretty gripping and elements such as the sound design and visuals are pretty great. Puzzles can be very challenging at times and do require a bit of thinking to solve. If you were a fan of old Silent Hill style puzzles, which could be obscure, slightly baffling but have a sense of logic to them, then you'll love Re:Turn and it's puzzling. I often had an "A-ha" moment when solving one of it's puzzles and would say there are enough clues and pointers to help solve them.
Now, I'm oddly a guy who likes train levels in games. Gears of War, GoldenEye, and Timesplitters have awesome train levels. So with Re:Turn I was like "hey, this is perfect". But thought as well, the journey could be limited. The developers have done a good job of making sure the game doesn't feel immensely repetitive and do enough to keep the pace going smoothly. But by the third act, it does become a little tedious and there is plenty of backtracking to great lengths. Some puzzles are just a case of going to one end of the train and to the other to collect items and this can be a little dull.
I do wish Re:Turn had offered some elements to make it a little more challenging. Lone Survivor was similar in that you mainly explored and solved puzzles. But it had basic stealth mechanics which really worked well to heighten the tension. About halfway through Re:Turn I realised there were no enemies, nor anything that would harm me, aside from one or two set-pieces. I do also think the past and present elements could've been explored a little more and had a more dynamic effect on gameplay.
But overall it's fine for what it is.
Re:Turn has some great elements to it. It has a pretty good story, visually pleasing with great sound design and a very likable main character. I think the puzzles are pretty great and the idea of traveling to and from the past is interesting. But the ending, lack of dynamic features, and low level of intensity/conflict do hold back Re:Turn. It's still a good game and one to check out, but it's not on the same level as Lone Survivor. Worth checking out if you can get it on sale or are very passionate about horror games and with a good story.
++ Good story and likable main character
+ Great atmosphere, setting and sound design
+ Challenging puzzles and good exploration
-- Weak ending
- Tedious backtracking and repetition towards the end
- Lack of dynamic elements to make it fresh and different
A Steam review copy of Re:Turn - One Way Trip was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review