Arise: A Simple Story is Spanish developer Piccolo Studio's debut title and it offers a blend of the aesthetics from Thatgamecompany-developed adventure games like Journey with the setup of last year's GRIS, where one's ability to control time to affect one's surroundings is the main focus. Just like the title suggests, Arise: A Simple Story offers a rather straight forward premise, but not in a negative, empty way. On the contrary, Piccolo Studio has made a ton of smart design choices when creating the game and it has grabbed inspiration from plenty of stylistic indie titles that have taken the world by storm in the past few years. Think of Old Man's Journey, GRIS, Journey, Tearaway and Lost Ember all mixed together in a gripping, beautiful mash-up.
Arise: A Simple Story starts off with the funeral of the main protagonist, letting the player step into the metaphorical shoes of that same protagonist's spirit as it travels through tear-filled, atmospheric, sombre yet calming memories. For the most part, the gameplay focuses on the act of time travel. For example, one will fast-forward time to the season of winter, granting one the option to climb on top of packed snow in order to get to areas that were not accessible in spring (or vice versa). The time travel mechanic gives the player the option to manipulate the location of the sun as well, which can prompt the sunflowers in a beautiful field to move as they try to turn to the inviting rays of light, turning each flower into a platform to jump on. The spirit under your control varies in size. At times it'll appear as big as a man and in other instances, it's the size of a pinhead. This ensures that Arise never gets tedious. There's something special about exploration that feeds one's curiosity in a way that makes it difficult to put down, especially since the locations vary in grandeur depending on your size.
At its core, Arise is a platforming game with a focus on simple puzzle solving and it plays like a dream apart from the fact that the camera angle is set. It's easy to see why this is the case because it gives the developer the chance to direct every second and deliver stunning moments that build character and forces emotion, and even though it works, the fixed angle does bring some issues late in the game. The precision platforming doesn't work that great since it's hard to judge the distance between two platforms when one can't steer the camera. Apart from this, however, it's a joy to play.
The soundtrack is composed by David García, who also composed the soundtracks for Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and Rime, and this, accompanied by the stunning graphics, lifts the experience to new heights. Every second of Arise is played to tunes and each track invites such a strong sense of emotion while adding to the overall atmosphere of the game and we'd recommend you to play with headphones on in order to experience it fully. The graphics are phenomenal, too. It's stylistic, minimalist, and filled to the brim with character in a way that at times makes you want to stop just to take in the fantastic visuals.
The memories that Arise is made up by are things that many of us can relate to. Love, loyalty and longing are a few of the themes that are laid out in the game and just like in GRIS and Old Man's Journey, it works exceptionally well thanks to phenomenal direction and a fair amount of tact on the developer's part. Arise: A Simple Story is one of those stunning, truly special indie experiences that we'd recommend everyone check out. Apart from some camera-related issues, Arise is an absolute gem.