To review this game we’re going to try something a little different, a little less structured, a bit like the game itself. There is a plot, there is an extreme linear path of game-play, but there is an overwhelming sense of confusion and being lost on a cerebral path. You’r ea ghost in the lead characters shell and truth be told sometimes you’re not quite which shell you’re in. The narrative is held and push by the incredibly impressive score, the game is given life via the soundtrack and the extremely pretty graphics, that are starting to become associated with these style of walking point and click games.
The description of Virginia boasts influences by David Lynch creations such as Twin Peaks and these are well founded. The game is like a brighter version of what Lynch would create if he had access to a game engine. But it is laced with mystery and sadness, though hope has not been completely dissipated.
You play, for the most part to our understanding, as a fresh FBI agent who has been given two assignments at once. First is the investigate the disappearance of a teenage boy and second is to essentially spy on her colleague.
Get use to scene jumps as they are frequent in this game and seemingly part of the story as if they had sentience. At times it’s helpful, but at other times it’s somewhat jarring. A sudden jump from the point you were at can take you back but it can also happen at a pivotal point where you’re trying to understand the story. There are files you are given about say the missing boy or your partner and you only have an invisible time limit to read them. Be unaware of this and it’s too late to suck in the info, you’ve jumped to another scene. But then there are times when the scene will freeze, somewhat longer than necessary whereby you are not required to move the story along, it will switch to the next scene after a few moments of pointless staring at a receipt for the coffee you ordered.
A proper tweaking to the balance of scene changing is definitely missing in this game but despite all that it certainly is one of the reason the game stands out compared to others.
We won’t spoil the story itself, because it’s hard to know how to without just rambling everything crazy that happened until the end scene. It needs evaluating several times before constructing, it needs to be played by you if you want to grasp what is happening and even then if you watch the credits with no questions, we’d be extremely surprised.
Suffice to say we wondered who were were, if we a time-loop happened, if symbolism was real or hallucinations and a not-so-important-to-plot question that stuck out was “why does the FBI hire people that they want other people to investigate to then fire”. If the boy mattered at all to the case and wtf was up with that alien scene
Without the score that accompanies this brief journey (the game is set during the course of a week), this game would not be raved about at all. It’s essential, it’s the mood, it’s the actions, it’s the character and it’s the story. It’s beautifully constructed by Lydon Holland (who also co-wrote the game) and executed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Virginia is not a bad game, it’s a good game that does not fall into the same category as Dear Esther, because it invokes through it’s score and manages to convey so much more without dialogue. It has interaction and though extremely linear and no puzzles are includes, you can diverge for a few item pick ups ect to gain achievements. It is without a doubt a game and not an illustrated audiobook you need to engage with via a keyboard, which is what Dear Esther and some other ‘games’ are to many.
It’s a game that you can easily replay due to the run-time of not much longer than 2hrs but all that said, the question is, is the game too pretentious? It definitely balances on a thin line. There are multiple moments towards the end of the game, where the music builds up to an anticipated climax and you are drawn along with it and feel a rush for what the climax will be and that’s a great thing. But the more silent scenes, the random jumping about with no correlation and the unknowing or what is real and what is not, is too obscure in this game. A bit more structure, without completely losing the mystery and Lynch-dreamlike effect would be a personal preference.
For the current price on Steam of £6.29 we’d recommend picking this game up if you’re a fan of haunting mystery and Lynch vibes and if you happen to love not knowing what’s going on, then even more so. The game stands out for sure and that’s a complete positive. It will stick with you regardless of the execution and in that case, Virginia is one of the most memorable games of this year so far.