The Elite Institute’s ‘impressions’ series are not full reviews of titles. As we pride ourselves on providing in-depth reviews for games that we have beaten or completed, our ‘impressions’ instead focus on providing you with details on the game along with our general thoughts on the title, to help shape your opinion. This means that there will be no score, but we can hopefully give you an idea of the quality.
The reasons for doing an ‘impressions’ rather than a full review vary: perhaps it’s a genre that we don’t feel comfortable reviewing due to gaming tastes, maybe it’s too hard or too bad that we are unable to make it through, or maybe even it’s a game that just doesn’t really have an end goal.
Many thanks to RedDeerGames for the game code.
Depression can be a tricky subject to deal with in a videogame, and many have tried to varying degrees of success. To Leave, by Freaky Creations, takes a damn good pop at it by making something that emulates the feeling of depression whilst being quite vague about it.
It would have worked pretty well too, if it wasn’t for one big problem – and the reason why this is an Impressions.
As alluded to in the opening paragraph, the story in To Leave is more than a little bit obtuse. Focusing on a depressed chap called Harm, who lives alone in his cramped apartment, he embarks on a quest to open something known as the Origin Gate after consulting with a fairy lady who seems to live inside his mind. To do this, he needs to seek the eight temples that will open up this gateway and make an offering of harvested souls. Each offering will drain him of his energy, leaving Harm to slump slowly back to the door that will lead him home.
Oh yes, the door. Inside Harm’s apartment is his magical door that will allow him to travel to the different worlds where each temple resides. He can then use that door to fly to the temple where he needs to make his offerings.
Visually, the game is stunning, and the whole mood captures the essence of helplessness. It may be steeped in metaphor that can make the story hard to parse, but it’s also mostly unimportant. Aside from a ridiculously long opening section, the story mostly takes a backseat to the rest of the game and isn’t overly obtrusive as you progress further into it.
As far as gameplay goes, the bulk of it can be divided into two main sections: on-foot platforming and on-door platforming. The on-foot stuff is largely like what you’d expect, with Harm simply moving (slowly) and jumping. He can’t jump very high, but he does jump a lot farther than you’d expect. It’s functional, although these parts can feel a little slow. The early part of the game focuses mainly on this style of gameplay, and will no doubt be off-putting for many.
Stick with it though and you’ll get to the real meat of the game. It may around half an hour or so into the experience, but as soon as you get introduced to the flying door things start to pick up from a gameplay standpoint. These sections that make up the majority of the remainder of the game are much exciting, even though they are also far more difficult too. Holding A will cause the door to float upwards, tapping the trigger will give you a slight boost, and releasing the A button will cause your door to plummet sharply downwards under the effects of gravity. Getting hit will cause you to restart from the last checkpoint-face-block you hit, as well as lose some overall energy; lose all that energy and it’s back to the start of the level you go. It builds up at a pleasingly steady pace for the most part, but it quickly gets a lot harder as the level design becomes far more more unforgiving.
Even though the game controls well, this is unfortunately when the problems start to arise. The spike in difficulty comes quite suddenly and can certainly provide frustration for those lacking a certain amount of patience or skill. It’s not quite enough to spoil the game due to the unique gameplay mechanics, but a bug towards the end of the game does. After a particularly hard segment, I found the game soft-locked with even a restart resulting in the same error. The publishers are aware of this, so hopefully it will get fixed, but this made the Switch version impossible for me to complete.
I had fun with my time regardless, so check out my gameplay footage of the (admittedly rather slow) opening section of the game. If it appeals to you, it may be worth wishlisting and waiting until they fix that game-breaking bug.