I’d heard great things about this game in advance of its release, so when the publisher reached out to ask if I wanted to do a Fall of Porcupine review, I eagerly agreed. I’d seen many approving comments from critics, and was happy to add my voice to the masses. On the surface, it looked exactly my kind of game. Cute graphics, emotional story beats, and varied minigames. Unfortunately, whilst the concept was there, the execution could have been a lot better.
As with all my reviews, I aim to help readers make better buying decisions. I simply present my experiences and let readers decide how much that would affect my own enjoyment. I’m a strong believer that preferences can make or break a game. There are some games I love that are widely hated, and other games I hated that are widely praised. So although the following review is going to be rather critical, feel free to have a different opinion. Fall of Porcupine just happened to hit a lot of my deal-breakers, but you may not feel the same.
I Like to Move It, Move It… Please Let Me
Whyyyy is this game so slow? This is a common complaint I have with walking simulators (and make no mistake, that’s what Fall of Porcupine is, it can call itself a ‘narrative adventure’ all it likes). I understand that some players may enjoy a relaxed leisurely stroll through the environment, but that’s not how I roll. I never understand why some developers don’t put in a running option. That way the players who like to walk slowly can do so, but those of us who are less patient can run around completing quests faster.
The inability to run is made worse by the incredibly empty environment. All you do is walk, walk, walk. There’s pretty much nothing to interact with between quests. Aside from the occasional sign to read, all you can do is look at the scenery. And sure, the graphics are decent (more on that later), but looking at them doesn’t constitute gameplay.
Unless you count jumping on an occasional box as platforming (I don’t), you are literally just walking in straight lines. It’s boring, I genuinely don’t understand how anyone could find this fun. And I feel strongly that games should be fun. You’re just walking past random decorations and occasionally jumping over arbitrary obstacles.
An Intense Setting
Fall of Porcupine takes place in a hospital, where Finley (the protagonist) has started a new job. He’s only recently recovered from a head injury, and is getting back into the swing of things. We get introduced to the patients in the hospital as well as the other staff members.
I really don’t like our boss. She’s got a mean attitude which I know must be the result of a stressful job, but she lacks compassion. Finley is still new to the job, yet she treats him so harshly. It’s especially cruel considering he sustained his injury whilst trying to help a patient. I’m a very sensitive person, and I really didn’t like being spoken to in that tone. I understand it’s part of the game, though, and I don’t think you’re supposed to like her.
The town itself is littered with bits of lore. You can find objects which have plaques or signs, and read them to learn more about the setting. The downside here is that you can only read them once. If you accidentally skip past what was said by double-clicking, then tough luck. I don’t like that you’re not given the opportunity to reread what was written.
I appreciate that Fall of Porcupine gives a trigger warning at the start of the game. A message pops up on screen to let you know that the story deals with themes of mental health and death. It suggests taking regular breaks if needed, and I think it’s awesome that the developers are taking accountability for the wellbeing of their players.
Minigames – Great Concept, Poor Execution
In a slow-paced game like this, I’m a huge proponent of minigames. They help to add variety to gameplay and keep the player entertained. In my opinion, they’re essential for keeping players invested in the game. They’re not necessary in titles where the regular gameplay is enjoyable, but seeing as Fall of Porcupine just involves walking, they were definitely a requirement here.
Unfortunately, there were issues. It wasn’t even the games themselves that were the problem, it was the way they were handled. For starters, the instructions were super unclear and the controls were not at all intuitive. The minigames feel like they should be easy, but a few times I messed up because the controls were so poorly explained.
There’s also a coding issue, at least for Xbox. When the game tells you to press RT, nothing actually happens. You instead have to press RB for the RT button to light up, but even then it doesn’t register as having been pressed. At first I was worried my button had broken, but I tried on the home screen, and the RT button worked fine, so it was a game issue.
Thankfully, the minigames are just for fun and don’t impact the actual story.
Rather than trying to stretch the following observations into individual headings, I’ve grouped them up into one section. I’ll share some positive insights and some negative ones. That should give you a better insight into what to expect from the game.
Things I Liked
- Graphics – The game sported a gorgeous autumnal colour palette. Autumn colours are amongst my favourites, so I really enjoyed seeing them. There were also neat, crisp lines on the assets which meant I could clearly make out the details. I loved the different character and asset designs. The effort that went into the hand-drawn art style was much-appreciated.
- Fun Tutorial – If the rest of the game had been more like the tutorial, I’d have probably rated it much higher. The start was very self-aware with some funny lines that genuinely made me smile. I also got to jump around and swim underwater. Unfortunately, it turned out that was just a dream, so alas, no more underwater swimming for me!
- Cute Font – I mean, yeah. Not much else to say for this point. They used a quirky sans-serif font that really worked with the overall vibe of the game.
- Xbox Supremacy – Finley had an Xbox Series X in his bedroom, it was a nice touch. It made me think “Hey, I’ve got one of those, too!”
Things I Didn’t Like
- You Can’t Save – The game doesn’t allow you to save. Not only that, but checkpoints are few and far between, and the game doesn’t even let you know when they are. It also resets itself if you so much as leave the screen, even if the game is still open. At one point, I paused the game and went to the home screen to do my daily Wordle. I was gone for maybe 2 minutes. But when I came back, it had erased a bunch of my progress. It was so frustrating.
- Forced Pauses in Dialogue – For a game that’s already monotonously slow, it was a bold choice to slow it even further. You have no option to skip dialogue, so instead you have to wait for it to progress by itself. It’s not even spoken dialogue, you just have to read it and then wait ages. I get that they’re trying to cater to slow-readers, but there should be the option to move on once you’ve read it.
- You Can’t Move the Cursor – There’s a cursor that just sits there, in the middle of the screen, partially blocking view. You can’t move it, it’s just kinda there. I don’t understand the point since it clearly doesn’t serve a function. Not sure if this is an issue on all consoles or just Xbox.
Before I give my verdict, it’s important to note that I didn’t play very much of the game. I only played 2 hours, but there’s a reason for this. I’d intended to drudge on through a few more chapters, but the save issue came back to bite me. I’d gone through what I assumed was a checkpoint after finishing my first game, so I ended there. But when I came back to play, it had reset me to almost the start of the day and I’d lost about an hour of progress. There was no way I was going to play through another hour of the same boring gameplay, so I called it quits.
As you can probably tell by my reluctance to continue playing, I did not like this game. I’ve tried to make my Fall of Porcupine review at least a little balanced, but honestly I just don’t get it. I’m sure the story probably gets pretty good as the game goes on, but the gameplay is so poor that I can’t be patient enough to find out. I don’t understand why some other critics have been giving this a 90. Clearly their tolerance for the mundane is a lot higher than mine.
Whilst there are some interesting aspects, overall, Fall of Porcupine fell far below my expectations. I wouldn’t recommend getting this game unless you’re a fan of slow walking and reading. If you enjoy fun gameplay, this isn’t for you.
Fall of Porcupine (Xbox Series X)£14.99
- Beautiful graphics
- Addresses important topics like mental health
- Puts effort into the story and lore
- Waaaay too slow-paced, it's boring
- The minigames are glitchy and don't work as intended
- The lack of a save option means you end up having to repeat large sections if you take a break from playing
- Not much actual gameplay, you're just walking around