Secrets. What family doesn't have them? And how many try to keep them safe and buried under layer upon layer of lies, lies, and more lies. Sooner or later that pain, those ghosts from the past, those unspoken words, they can come to the surface and in turn drag blissfully ignorant souls back down into the abyss with them. It's around this bitter theme that the heavy-hitting plot of The Suicide of Rachel Foster intertwines.
The events herein take place in the remote Lewis and Clark County, Montana, in the early '90s. Ten years earlier, a teenager called Nicole left the family hotel with her mother after they found out that her father, Leonard, was having an affair with Rachel, a girl the same age as his daughter. Tragically, Rachel, after discovering that she was pregnant, took her own life. Years later, now that both of her parents have died, Nicole is returning to the hotel for the first time in a decade, to put it up for sale. However, she is also fulfilling a promise to her mother: to give part of the proceeds from the sale to Rachel's family as compensation for the pain caused by Leonard's actions.
Nicole struggles to get to the hotel because of a heavy snowstorm that is hitting the county, and, while waiting for the family lawyer to attend to the final details of the sale of the now dilapidated property, she is forced to stay due to the inclement weather. It's just as she tries to get in touch with the lawyer that she receives a call from Irving, a young FEMA agent in possession of a new-fangled radiophone, the only way of communicating in these adverse weather conditions. As she waits for the storm to calm down and with Irving's remote support, the young woman returns to explore the abandoned hotel, discovering that Rachel's death is actually wrapped up in a disturbing mystery.
There's a trend for indie stories that revolve around family secrets. From Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch through to Remothered: Tormented Fathers, there's undoubtedly an interest in exploring our murky private lives, precisely because these are the stories that touch us most closely - they're the same stories that we live ourselves, even in those families that are apparently perfect. The Suicide of Rachel Foster explores this by taking us into a thrilling maze of intrigue that is seasoned with some exquisite horror elements, and this blend lets the player create a strong bond with main character Nicole. Essentially focused on exploration and the search for clues (much like the best detective stories), The Suicide of Rachel Foster has the player reconstructing fragments of the whole as they seek clarity about historical events. You have to use the evidence collected as you advance through the abandoned hotel and attempt to put the various pieces of the puzzle back together and thus unravel a mystery that has remained unsolved for ten long years.
The atmosphere is enhanced by subtle references to horror and psyco-thriller movies, starting with the most obvious one: The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. With nods like the carpet on the first floor, which has the same geometric shapes as the one in Kubrick's movie, One O One is making a clear homage to the film based on the Stephen King novel. The problem is that these references inspire you to imagine possible scenarios that ultimately lead you astray. Despite the horror-filled atmosphere, especially at the beginning, the focus here is on other terrors: the things that are hidden within the walls of our very homes.
It's the narrative that drives the five to six hours it takes to play through The Suicide of Rachel Foster. The game boasts an impeccable script, with twists and revelations placed at just the right moments in the story, and the tension is maintained throughout. Even the slower moments here fit perfectly with the suspenseful mood that envelopes the entire narrative, with certain revelatory moments also helping to enhance the tension.
Gameplay-wise, The Suicide of Rachel Foster is far from complex; it's essentially based around simple exploration and on binary dialogue choices during our constant calls with Irving. There's a lot of back-tracking, an omnipresent mechanic in games of this nature, although this never felt overly forced, rather it's a way to look at certain details and clues in a new light.
Although it's fine in terms of content and technically solid, there were some small problems. During one crucial moment, the sound went completely crazy and we could no longer hear the background noises in the hotel. The lack of audio, in this case, hindered us as we were trying to work out how to move forward and were forced to restart the game at the beginning of Day 3 and to do it all over again. A similar issue also occurred during the epilogue, leaving us a little annoyed and unable to listen to the excellent vocal performances of the voice actors in one of the most important moments of the story. Small problems, true, but they broke the otherwise perfect tension that was created during some really powerful moments. We hope there's an update coming soon that will fix these issues.
Besides this minor criticism, we really liked The Suicide of Rachel Foster. Thanks to a cleverly woven plot that was full of suspense up until the last second, this new thriller had us on the edge of our seat throughout. Sinking into the murky family secrets waiting in The Suicide of Rachel Foster is highly recommended, especially for those looking for a narrative-driven game that's happy to take things slow as it draws you into its intriguing world.