Parents' Guide to


By David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Kooky sports adventure is surprisingly engaging, fun.

Game PlayStation 4 , Windows 2017
Pyre Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

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On the surface, it's odd to mash up elements of Oregon Trail with an arcade-like take on basketball, but somehow this game just works seamlessly. There's something about navigating each region and seeing what interactions or character insights unfurl that makes Pyre very difficult to put down. Your time spent in these sections is intended to deepen your relationship with and attachment to each of the game's many characters, but it's also critical to earning bonuses or new items that will come in handy come "basketball" time. For example, while trudging through a particularly bleak bog, each of your characters will have their "hope" diminished, affecting how long each character will have to be "benched" after scoring a "basket" on your opponent's flaming pyre during a rite. The game isn't as mechanical as this implies; it's more like each half of the game surprisingly complements the other.

But the biggest knock against Pyre would be the way each half of the game also seems to keep you at a distance. The world map isn't really a map; instead, it's a stack of two-dimensional cards representing different regions. You're frequently told what's happening rather than being shown, which is also true during the basketball portions -- the camera is placed at a disappointing distance from the action. While intended to give you a more strategic view of the field, it can also make matches monotonous. On top of that, while there's a surprising level of strategy, you can also get away with playing the sport more like football and forcing your way across the field without tactics. While this points to the game's versatility, it's hard to shake the feeling that maybe you're playing it "wrong," even if you're winning. There's also a deeper level of conflict in play because each significant victory is also a substantial loss: Once you've leveled up one of your characters sufficiently, you can earn their freedom, which means they're no longer playable. Still, Pyre makes for a solid adventure with heart. If you're weary of RPGs that are too fixated on stats and maxing out equipment, Pyre is well worth checking out.

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