Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Yet, even with technology making communication easier than ever, long distance relationships are rife with their own complications, joy, and heartache.
Lightning Rod Games is seeking to explore love from this perspective in their imminent 2020 release A Fold Apart. I had the pleasure of playing through the demo at PAX East 2020 and this charming puzzle game quickly stole my heart.
This is the tagline for A Fold Apart, which neatly summarizes both the major theme and mechanics of the game. Players will need to riddle out a variety of paper folding puzzles in order to shift their perspectives and continue through the narrative.
This clever mechanic was inspired by folded advertisements in magazines. Such images often hide, reveal, or join into a bigger picture. Only by bringing together the different viewpoints of the major characters will players be able to unite the protagonists, Alex and Sam, in a shared vision of their relationship.
As someone who enjoys puzzle games immensely, I was surprised by how the simple premise quickly surpassed my expectations. The first major non-guided puzzle took me a decent amount of time to wrap my mind around while I fought against my own limited perception of space. Finding a game with such a cohesive vision that unifies both emotional experience and mechanical challenge is always a delight.
Each level introduces further ways to push the possibilities for folding and unfolding the couples’ lives as you strive to bridge the gap between them. If you’re playing simply for the story, there is a hint system you can access through the menu that reveals steps of the solution in sequential order without spoiling the entire puzzle.
Though the mechanics of the game make for a satisfying brain-teaser, the story itself is worth experiencing alone. Based off the real-life experience of one of the developers, the narrative is estimated to run players three to four hours. For those who love Disney and Pixar, this beautifully presented and heartfelt journey will absolutely carry you away.
Players have a variety of dialogue options via texts shared between the two characters as they play. These choices won’t completely overhaul the trajectory of the game, but do offer a nice touch of agency in a deeply personal story.
Diversity within Lightning Rod Games is also a major focus for the small studio and A Fold Apart is no exception. Players have the option to choose the gender of both protagonists at the start of the game.
Supporting the emotional narrative is an enchanting soundtrack by composer Riley Koenig of Power Up Audio (available now on Spotify and Bandcamp). Each character has their own instrumentation and feel as you control them, which cleverly weave together in scenes with both Alex and Sam. Power Up Audio is also known for their audio work on Celeste, though it should be noted they did not write the music itself for that particular title.
The experience of being apart from someone you love is not unique to any one person. Even when physical distance comes between us, there is an incredible hope that emotional closeness can still enable us to reach another’s heart. After my short demo at PAX East, A Fold Apart easily folded its way into becoming one of my most anticipated Indie games of 2020.
A Fold Apart is coming to Apple Arcade, Mac OSX, Nintendo Switch, Windows, and iOS next month with additional consoles to follow. Those interested can pick up the game for $19.99.