I struggled with the concept of Iris.Fall. Something was missing for me and I wasn’t able to put my finger on it and then it dawned on me: story. Now, there does seem to be some form of story involved as I progressed through Iris.Fall, but it appears to be secondary to the puzzles. However, there are parts that come up in the game that seem to forward that subtle narrative and then leave it behind to be swallowed up into the game’s dark-ish atmosphere. Can a puzzle game be just a puzzle game when designed into a world with a subtle narrative in the background? Does that work? Is it annoying? Does story really matter in a puzzle game? Let me break it down for you.
As stated above, Iris.Fall is a puzzle game first and foremost. There are a couple of easy-breezy puzzles that made me question how much challenge awaited me in the rest of the game. That subsided as I progressed. Most of the puzzles are of the logic sort (duh?). A kind of “move a piece at a time” to solve the problem. (Be careful, there are achievements for doing them without making mistakes the first time if you care.) There are a few puzzles that reminded me of the Rubik’s cube method and I’ll admit that I wasn’t seeing the pattern. (I suck at Rubik’s Cubes by the way.) There seemed to be visual clues for a lot of the puzzles given and if one is observant enough, the puzzles can be solved with minimal hair being ripped out. There have been a few puzzles that I didn’t notice any clues at all and seemed to be constructed as a “just keep trying until you get it” puzzle. (I’m not the biggest fan of those if that’s what was really happening here.) There was one at the end that really tripped me up for the longest time. I had to put the game down because I wasn’t seeing the logic or any visual clues and ultimately I was just getting frustrated. (Mainly because it seemed so simple!)
The main puzzle elements deals with shadows. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Iris has the ability to shift into the shadow realm with the help of special books found on the ground at which point, the game turns from a 3D puzzle game into a 2D side-scroller without the jump mechanic. You’ll be moving objects around in the 3D space to create shadows on walls and then shift into the shadow realm and either move on to the next room or acquire an item. It doesn’t feel fresh or new, but it does work well and it’s presented well also. The only issue I had with this mechanic is exiting the shadow realm requires some real precise positioning at times. The hit-box on some exit books felt smaller than I feel it should have been so getting out wasn’t as smooth as getting in.
Visually Iris.Fall is done with the monochromatic black and white color scheme (as you can see in the screens). It seems to be trying to create a mysterious atmosphere, but it was introduced to me as creepy. After playing through it, there were definitely creepy-ish looking objects in the game, but most of the elements of Iris.Fall would fall into my category of “rather strange”. I spent most of the time playing and wondering what in the world I was being shown. The puzzles only added to that funky feeling, but as I mentioned before that there was a bit of a story in here. They keep reminding me of it, but never really fleshed it out enough for me to be able to describe it to anyone well. Am I a puppet? Do I need to free the puppets? Is the cat a jerk? Had Iris simply gone from room to room solving weird-looking puzzles with puppets and shadows, I think that would had worked/flowed well enough for me as a game concept. As it stands, Iris.Fall is a visually fun game to look at as well as play… one day I may even be able to finish it.