Iris Fall Review
NEXT studios, the developers behind small experiences with big presence have finally brought Iris Fall to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (as well as PS5 and Series S/X via backwards compatibility). Iris Fall is a petite, puzzle, adventure that shakes up conventional puzzle mechanics, and in some cases reinvents them; but at the same time may be a little too easy and quite short for most players.
Iris Fall is about a girl named Iris who awakens from a dream and follows a black cat into a dilapidated theater. There's a mix between 2D and 3D story elements that tell Iris's story about what's really happening in this theater and how it all relates to her in one fashion or another. You can tell right from the start that this game borrow notes --and to some degree direction-- from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with that feel of darkness from a children's storybook.
Like I mentioned above, some of the puzzles you'll come across in the game's linear layout can be quite clever, like the Rubik's Cube-style block puzzle.
The art style is also storybook like, having that innocent, early turn-of-the-century look and feel that blends a black and white aesthetic with a minimalistic color choice when emphasizing a deeper dimension. The story is never explicitly clear on what exactly is transpiring within this theater, but gives hints covered in an abstract style which allows you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.
There are a variety of different puzzle types in the game. Like I mentioned above, some of the puzzles you'll come across in the game's linear layout can be quite clever, like the Rubik's Cube-style block puzzle. For this puzzle you have to rearrange, switch around and realign cubes to angle lights from them in order to shine them on the doors to unlock the path forward. Add to that puzzles that have Iris collecting items in order for them to function properly. A nice little touch is turning a number of puzzles into multilayered experiences that work into the puzzle, where Iris can detach from her physical form, allowing you to control her shadow from the large stage lights that are always shining off into the backdrop. If there's a broken path that leads to a dead end, find the storybook --that doubles as a transfer point between Iris's physical and shadow bodies, and move the shadows to complete the path and walk through. There are also several of these clever moments in the game that allow the experience to transcend other puzzlers of this caliber.
There were even a few puzzles that really felt like they relied on trial and error rather than smarts or environmental clues.
Adversely, there are a handful of puzzles that just didn't hit the mark. Some of these unsavory puzzles were either too easy or were easier solved by guessing. Now, I may be alone in this, but when I play a puzzle game and I'm sitting there and the solution finally clicks, I expect to have left having learned something along the way. That's not quite the case in a number of Iris Fall's puzzles. There were even a few puzzles that really felt like they relied on trial and error rather than smarts or environmental clues.
Overall, Iris Fall is a relaxed experience that never places any pressure on you to solve a puzzle in any particular amount of time. You can savor its short eight chapters one at a time, or conquer them all in a single sitting.
A game code was provided for this review from the publisher for Xbox One.