Nippon Ichi certainly knows how to tell gruesome tales featuring adorable looking young girls! The creators of Yomawari: Night Alone have returned with a brand new puzzle platformer, A Rose in the Twilight. It's a tale of innocence, friendship, and blood.
A young girl with a thorn upon her back awakens in the rubble, deep in the depths of an old castle. Rose is not completely alone in this place, though, and soon comes across a Giant. While not initially sure whether this creature is a friend or foe, they soon form an unlikely bond and begin to work together to explore the castle with the hope of finding a way to escape.
Of course things are not quite as simple as just finding the nearest exit; Rose is cursed. From the various diary notes that you find lying around you learn that the thorn on her back has the ability to draw time and colour out of objects. Extracting time and colour from things means that they become static and can't be moved - you can use this power to transfer colour from one object to another and return time to things that have become frozen. Many of the game's puzzles are based around this simple concept of moving colour and time from one object to another.
Rose and the Giant are dependent on each other and you will need to switch between the two to progress. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses: the Giant is practically immortal unless he falls into a bottomless pit - he can walk through thorns unharmed and lift heavy objects. He also has the ability to pick up Rose and throw her on to high ledges or over gaps. Rose on the other hand is far more squishy. While she can climb ladders, get through small spaces, and make use of her aforementioned thorn, she is much more frail. Everything from walking through thorns, falling from heights, and monsters will kill her. The castle is practically a death trap and death will become a regular occurrence.
The game has many clever puzzles, from freezing and unfreezing objects to using a watering can which can pour red liquid, painting blood portraits, and traversing up clockwork towers. There's quite a wide variety of logic and physics based conundrums - there'll be plenty of times when you'll feel stuck, but the answers are usually right in front of you if you take a minute or two to think and experiment with everything you can.
Occasionally you'll come across Execution Rooms - macabre locations with doors that are blocked by thorns - and to remove the thorns a sacrifice of blood is required. Your blood. Above each of these doors is a grim execution method. Rose knows what is required of her, she hesitates, and her small body quivers and quakes as she makes the ultimate sacrifice. It's heartbreaking to watch an innocent child go through this but her bravery at pushing through with what needs to be done is remarkable. She's revived after each execution but that doesn't make it any easier for you to watch.
One of the things that is easy to watch is the friendship between Rose and the Giant. It's remarkable, especially when you take into account that there is very little dialogue in the game and that the Giant doesn't even have a face. Instead it's through their simple, silent interactions that you'll watch a true friendship blossom. There are many questions that you'll ask yourself throughout the game about who Rose and the Giant are and why the castle is in ruins. These details will slowly be revealed as you explore the castle, and as well as finding various notes and history books, you'll also find bodies of the castle staff amongst the rubble. The curse of the thorns allows Rose to absorb their blood, which will show you a brief glimpse of their memories. These blood memories are beautiful short cutscenes that play out like a shadow theatre show, complete with a striking blood red background. With all of the blood memories, history books and diary notes, you'll slowly be able to piece together this tale.
A Rose in the Twilight has such a unique look, and while it's mostly filled with murky shades of black and white, there are some pale hues of green and brown throughout. Because of these muted tones, when you do see vibrant red objects and blood stains they really stand out. Meanwhile, the cute character designs make you feel for Rose and you'll want to protect her, even though it can at times feel hopeless.
A Rose in the Twilight is a gorgeous yet gruesome game filled with lots of clever puzzles. And although it won't take you too long to explore the setting, there are collectibles as well as a fun speed run mode to keep you busy. The pure innocence and bravery of Rose in the face of the castle's cruelty makes for a haunting journey - one that'll stick in your mind for some time.