Virginia wears its influences on its sleeve and resorts to telling it story almost exclusively through images. While these design philosophies might sound admirable, the game is never able to move beyond its influences or use the images to tell a coherent, satisfying story.
You are an FBI agent tasked with finding a missing person in a small town. But quickly things turn to the surreal with a lot of dream imagery and a deep, red aesthetic. On top of this, the player is running an internal investigation on her partner, desperately hoping there is nothing to the accusations.
If this sounds a lot like Twin Peaks, it’s because a lot of beats of the story are exactly the same. There is the eating of pie and the drinking of coffee in a lonely diner, drives through urban, piney country, and lots and lots of surreal imagery. There’s even a scene ripped straight out of the show with the same exact music. And while inspirations are fine, such close adherence makes for little originality.
The other massive problem is that the game tries to tell its story through images. While not a bad endeavor, the problem with telling stories through images is that images are inherently ambiguous. The spoken and written word clearly signal what the author hopes to convey, but here there are important plot points and character relationships that are never fully explained.
It’s a shame that such a beautiful looking game fails to reach its aspirations. With clearer story beats and an attempt to diverge more from its inspirations, this could have been a gripping game. For a similar experience, check out Blendo Games similarly dialogue free adventures that tell short-form stories that shine.
© 2017 James Blake Ewing