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Arise: A Simple Story

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Arise: A Simple Story Game Poster Image
Touching poetic adventure explores time, age, and death.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The story explores love, family, aging, death, and time as it looks back on a man's life lived both long and well.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The hero proves himself to be a caring partner, noble leader, and exemplary human. He uses ingenuity rather than violence to overcome obstacles, leveraging and interacting with the natural world in clever and unexpected ways.

Ease of Play

Players should have no problem figuring out what to do and how to do it, but the controls and camera can be a little wonky, causing frustration in certain scenes.

Violence

There's no fighting, but the hero can perish in a few different ways, such as falling too great a distance. When he dies, he simply crumples to the ground and the game reloads the last checkpoint.

Sex

A level creatively focused on human reproduction is set in environments meant to recall the beginnings of life. Nothing explicit is shown, but pink hues, tube-like tendrils, and images of flowers and growth clearly bring to mind notions of conception and embryonic growth.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Arise: A Simple Story is a downloadable adventure for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The story is a poetic narrative adventure about an old tribal man who is cremated at the game's start and then re-experiences his long, productive life through a series of interactive memories that explore notions of love, family, aging, death, and time. Players see him play as a child, fall in love, and lead his people as they work through fantasy environments filled with symbolism, including a beautiful pink location composed of growing tendrils and blooming flowers meant to represent the conception of a child. There's no combat, though the hero can perish through player mistakes, such as falling too far a distance. It's a fairly straightforward play, though some of the running and jumping segments can prove a little frustrating due to a slightly wonky camera and occasionally tricky controls.

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What's it about?

ARISE: A SIMPLE STORY tells the story of an old tribal man in the afterlife. The game begins with his cremation, after which he awakens in a snowy hereafter where he re-experiences the most important moments in his life, from playing as a child, to falling in love with his lifelong partner, to the pair becoming pregnant. These themed levels are based on exploration, and see players running, jumping, climbing, and swinging their way past various obstacles. A key mechanic is the flow of time, which players can move forward or reverse at will with the right thumbstick. For example, moving time forward in a season-themed level will cause snow to melt and flooding to occur, while moving it backward will cause the water to freeze, creating new pathways. In another level, controlling time also controls the movement of animals such as snails and bees that can be used as platforms and anchor points for a grappling hook to swing between areas. There's no combat -- the primary objective is to learn about the life of the hero, including his personal struggles, responsibilities, and tragedies -- but that doesn't mean there's no danger. Careless and imprecise movement can cause the old man to perish by, say, falling.  

Is it any good?

This is a game that encourages players to see beauty in everything, including the natural world, human emotion and ingenuity, and even death. Arise: A Simple Story is full of metaphor, most prominently when it comes to the concept of time. Given control over the passage of time, we can see how it's both a blessing and a curse. It renders the past immutable and unchangeable, but also creates hope for the future, as the game's old man sees over and over again as he relives his life. Parts of it almost feel like the opening moments of the movie Up, with months and years condensed into a few short minutes both joyous and sad. There are scenes bound to make empathetic players well up with tears as the old man finds love and confronts tragedy, overcoming certain hurdles while stumbling over others. Few games are as effective at conveying such a range of emotions so naturally and seemingly effortlessly.

It's also a lot of fun to play. Working out solutions to puzzles is rarely overly challenging, which gives players time to relish their control over the game world. Moving the sun back and forth across to sky and watching as giant sunflowers bend their heads to follow it and trampoline-like spider webs take shape is the type of game mechanic that never gets old. Things can get a little frustrating toward the end as the running and jumping scenarios become more challenging -- this is complicated by a sometimes uncooperative camera that can make accurate movement difficult -- but checkpoints are generous, meaning you never lose much progress. Arise: A Simple Story may not be perfect, but even its imperfections can be seen as metaphor for its ambitious tale of a human life well and fully lived.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Arise: A Simple Story is broken into easily digestible levels comparable to a short episode of television, but did you feel satisfied playing just one at a time, or did you want to play more? Does the amount of time you want to spend playing a game depend on the type of game it is?

  • Do you think about not just growing up but growing old? How do you think people change as they age? Does it worry you, or are you looking forward to it?

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