Fall Of Porcupine Review (PS5) – Viewing mental health and care work through the lens of anthropomorphized creatures is an interesting hook for a story, but does the treatment work? Find out in PlayStation Universe’s review of Fall of Porcupine on PS5.
Fall of Porcupine Review (PS5) – A Cute, Yet Prickly Story Of Health Care
At its strongest, Fall of Porcupine manages to capture the two sides of being in care work. Sure it’s all glow-y feelings and self-satisfaction when you can help someone, but there’s a cost to yourself as well.
It can be chipping away in the background as you power through each day or stacking heavily on your shoulders. Having seen this in my own household as a child, but not realising it until later certainly made me appreciate what Fall of Porcupine is going for.
Pigeon Finley is the new doctor in the small town of Porcupine. The opening sees Finley going through a dream sequence where he converses with a flower, but the twee tranquility of this vision turns dark in the moments before he awakens. It’s actually a good distillation of the game itself. Serenity and saccharine melted into dark tar.
The game tends to focus on two areas, the hospital where Finley works and the town of Porcupine itself. You’ll be interacting with the local population in both areas, and it’s undeniably been the highlight of my time with Fall of Porcupine. Finley is such a likable, bouncy personality with a childlike innocence to some aspects of it.
This makes him a great sounding board for a broad range of characters young and old. When you get the crossover between seeing them as residents and patients, it creates an emotional groundswell that helps deliver Fall of Porcupine’s message in the best way possible.
Balancing light and dark is a tricky thing. Comedy can be sweet and sour, but ensuring one flavor does not overpower the other requires a particular kind of discipline. Developer Critical Rabbit admirably manages to maintain that discipline for a large swathe of Fall of Porcupine.
The dark shadows tend to creep in only briefly before the largely sunny disposition of the game blasts them back. But those shadows are noticeable, and their after exposure stays burned into the brain.
There’s two points where the mixture is a little more volatile. The mini-games, as varied as they can be, don’t often feel like they add all that much to the package. Some of them are even frustrating, getting in the way of Fall of Porcupine’s pace. You also tend to get one shot at them too, so there’s no time to really get to grips with them without replaying the game.
The other issue comes from the game’s finale, where that pace is ripped up for a rather laborious set of demands. Narratively, it makes sense that the game skews this way, but to play and experience, it doesn’t feel quite right.
It does put a bit of a downer on the work Critical Rabbit puts into the game’s message, but you can easily put it aside and view the intention warmly. This is one of those times where I’d probably have preferred a simpler gameplay structure that facilitated the story’s strengths. On the other hand, that then puts into question the need for it to even be a game at all.
Escaping a Pigeonhole
It’s a challenge of the continuing growth of storytelling in video games. How to make what many consider a ‘game’ that doesn’t dilute the strength of your story. Finding a meaningful middle ground is key, and I can look at a game that comes close to finding the right compromise like Fall of Porcupine, and have a lot more leniency for the shortcomings.
What matters is that Critical Rabbit does get to deliver its message and do so in a manner that is heartwarming as it can be heartbreaking. My advice would be to soak up everything you can in that first playthrough, because the experience is never going to feel as great on a replay.
Have that conversation, explore that little bit more, because fundamentally, that’s in the heart of what Fall of Porcupine is trying to do.
Fall Of Porcupine is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.