Arise: A Simple Story review | Risen

A tale as old as time travel? Here’s our review of the moving narrative platformer, Arise: A Simple Story…


Arise tells a simple story. It’s about a simple man and simple life events that evoke simple themes of love and loss. It’s simply communicated, without words, and hits simple emotional notes.

But behind the simplicity is a work of subtle and intricate craft. An immaculate marriage of visuals, music, environment design, and interactivity deliver these simple ideas with remarkable power.

The game begins with your death. As your stone-age Santa-alike is set alight atop his funeral pyre, the scene switches to a snowy limbo.

From here, the old man revisits the greatest joys and pains of his life and the relationship that shaped it. Each of the ten stages is a distinct dreamscape that represents both an event and an emotion, relaying the ups and downs of existence.

In play, this means light puzzle-platforming, formed around your ability to control time. Each level takes place within a time-lapse, with the world phasing around you through a fixed period in a matter of seconds.

You spool back and forth through this segment at will, positioning scenery and conditions to suit your needs. In the first level, you shift between winter and spring, thawing and refreezing a lake to create bridges from wooden rafts. Next, you’re in a giant garden one sunny afternoon, tilting the heads of sunflowers or hitching rides on snails to make your way.

The time manipulation expertly symbolises the game’s focus on reliving the past. It’s also highly versatile, and every level finds a way to keep it fresh. But what truly impresses in Arise is how all its parts blend together to portray and evoke the different emotions.

Levels build into arduous struggles or effortless flows depending on the mood. Light and shadow, heat and cold, and bursts of orchestral music combine to lift you up or prompt gritty determination. And every setting is an efficient metaphor, from the innocent fun of playing in that garden to the following stage where an earthquake rips through a valley, tearing you apart from your home.

It’s so harmonious that its only real fault feels uncharacteristic. With time-shifting mapped to the right stick, you’re robbed of camera control, and the dynamic angles can make it difficult to judge spaces between platforms or tell what’s in play and what isn’t.

Plus your old geezer isn’t the most sprightly gent, so every long jump requires effort, and any significant fall proves fatal. Even though checkpoints are gratifyingly frequent, you’ll need a little patience to persevere.

But what ultimately prevails is how skilfully this story swings you from sorrow to joy and back. Though you know how it must end, as with life, it’s the highs and lows, the bonds and experiences that make it worthwhile.

Arise explores this idea with gentle warmth, creates lasting memories of its own, and turns the simple into magic.


The game’s ‘Romance’ stage perfectly exemplifies how Arise builds feeling. Beginning with low-key platform-hopping between huge water lilies, the spinning leaves and flowers start to dance in formation, the quiet piano backing is joined by stirring violins, and you are whisked along through twinkling air streams as the whole scene blossoms into a stunning moonlit waltz.

Verdict: 82%

A moving story of anguish and devotion, told in a way that only games can.

Genre: Narrative platformer
Format: PS4 (tested) / XBO / PC
Developer: Piccolo Studio
Publisher: Techland
Price: £15.99
Release: Out now

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