Genre: Walking Sim, Relaxing, Puzzle
System: Steam (Windows)
Developer|Publisher: Erkberg Games
Controller Support: Full
Price: UK £4.29 | EU € 4,99 | USD $4.99
Release Date: April 17th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Erkberg Games.
Recollection is a walking simulation that is focused on remembering to look around you and smell the roses. It’s a short game with a simple but heartwarming message that allows players to bring back the world one bit at a time through observation.
The Gameplay of Recollection
Like many walking sims, Recollection is fairly basic in its controls. Players can move, use the location of the mouse’s pointer on the screen to move the main character’s gaze, and that’s about it. The simplicity of the game means it’s great for just about any age that can read, and the very visual nature of the story is appealing to kids and adults alike.
At least for the first half of the story.
The game is very short; it took me about 30 minutes to get through the whole of the game in the beginning mode and about the same in Fragile mode. I was surprised that such a short, simple game had two modes, but it was interesting to see the formula change up for the second run-through.
The Story of Recollection
The story of Recollection begins with a person on a blank screen. There are massive spikes every so often, but there isn’t anything to look at. The main character is stressed and begins to look for things they haven’t looked for in a while. First, we notice the moon.
Players need to use the mouse to look at the moon; then a puzzle is triggered. The moon slowly spins as players look over it, changing all the dark parts of the moon into bright ones as they study the satellite, bringing the moon slowly back into the main character’s vision.
After reconnecting with the moon, you must do the same with stars, flowers, trees, birds, grass, butterflies, water, and ultimately home. As you notice more things and study them with intent, the more the nature around us fills in, and the giant spikes, that were previously the only thing we noticed fade into the background.
When players finally make it home, they remember how beautiful everything around them is, and bring home a leaf for everyone to remember the beauties of nature. The sentiment is rather nice; it is important to look around and remember that there are pretty things everywhere. Connection with the natural world is massively important to our mental health and overall well-being.
To Relax or Not to Relax
The first playthrough was okay; it is a think piece with a simple moral and motivation. The second playthrough, on the more challenging Fragile mode, is a lot darker. Players must attempt the puzzles with things in the way of progress; the moon’s darkness is filled in again by space debris, the flock of birds is killed by smog, and the trees are sawed down by industry. But there is hope in all the darkness; even as you mourn the loss of the natural world around us by the pollution and lack of emphasis on clean air, there is a hopeful kind of message in Recollection.
While the first playthrough of the game was fairly relaxing, the second playthrough was much more stressful and less sugary and positive. The distinction between the two playthroughs was interesting; the naïve hopeful versus the still hopeful realist.
The Mini Games of Recollection
Every time a player makes eye contact with the next thing in Recollection, they are automatically pulled into a mini-game. These range from bringing back the light and colour to flowers to outlining the mountains. Each successfully completed mini-game brings more of nature back in the first playthrough and brings more of nature along with the human world, back into the picture.
No Hand Holding
The mini-games in Recollection are rough. I’m a big fan of games that don’t overly handhold the player, allowing us to try out things and fail sometimes. Recollection goes too far in the opposite direction. Players are left with confusing little games that have no hints or instructions anywhere, so if you don’t figure it out, you don’t do it at all. This led to some frustrating interactions, the most memorable being the bird mini-game.
In order to win this one, players have to take their bird and move it close to another bird until its eyes glow green, and then it joins your little group. If you touch the other bird, it instantly dies. Flies away? Falls out of the sky? I’m not sure. At first, I thought I was supposed to clear out the other birds, and when that didn’t work, I tried hovering by them with little success.
Turns out that most birds aren’t on the screen long enough with enough space around them to make this game obvious with what you are supposed to do. Instead of being pleased and curious, I just became quickly annoyed. When playing through again on Fragile mode, I loathed getting to the bird part again. And for a good reason, this mini-game was even more annoying despite knowing how to beat it.
More Mini Games
Another “mini-game?” is a post-game hidden object search, I think. I say, “I think,” because I have no idea what I was doing. You can continue to look around after completing the game, looking for hidden items. I found two before I gave up. I think I turned a cow into a bicycle, but I’m not 100% sure because once all the natural elements are back in the background, it’s pretty hard to see what is going on.
I’m unsure if I got those 2 out of 11 hidden items by looking at them, clicking on them, or what. I like the simplicity in games, but I think the developers took it a little too far with Recollection.
Recollection is not bad. It has a good message, some of the mini-games are interesting, and the visuals are simplistic but neat. I liked the first playthrough much better than the second, and not because the subject matter was darker, either. I think it would have behoved the developers to have a bigger range of playtesters and a little more thought into the mini-games. But overall, it has a nice message and is an okay time.
Final Verdict: I Like it.