Virginia PS4 Review
Publisher: 505 Games Developer: Variable State Genre: Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Playing out much like a film, having camera angles, wide-screen shots and even having a similar length in gameplay time to a feature-length film, Virginia is a single-player, first-person mystery where you play as an FBI agent looking for a missing boy and who is also tasked with investigating her fellow colleague. What makes this game unique is that everything is told solely through its animations and sound – there is no dialogue and very little text. Virginia takes inspiration from film and television of the 90s, such as Twin Peaks, The X Files and Silence of the Lambs. Strangely, it also seems to pay homage to Scooby Doo, as the characters in the game have eyes similar to that of the Scooby Doo gang. Anyway, starting out in a bathroom, it shows the main character, Anne Tarver, receiving her FBI badge and then it is straight into the mystery.
Virginia is a very intriguing game, one that is full to bursting with symbolism in its story-telling, a story that also threw me for a loop; I honestly had no idea what was going on, with so much happening towards the end of the game that it becomes more confusing than anything else. Virginia starts out with somewhat of a structure and you feel as though you can grasp what is happening, though towards the end, the symbolism is upped to maximum and the story, unfortunately, starts to lose its focus. If you are the type of player that enjoys wandering around a games environment and looking for clues as to what a story means, and you enjoyed games such as Dear Esther or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, then Virginia will appeal to you. However, if you enjoy more coherent storytelling, then this game is best avoided as the story is very vague at best and I felt it never came to a satisfying conclusion, such is the way with games that are left intentionally open to interpretation.
Graphically the game is simple yet vibrant and the style reminded me of Dr Kawashima from the Brain Training games on the Nintendo DS. The characters are expressive to a certain degree, but without any dialogue it can be a bit difficult picking up on what the tone of a scene is, with even the excellent musical score clashing with what is actually happening on-screen. You control Anne as she goes about her investigation, controlling her as she does mundane things, such as drinking coffee, eating a meal, playing a game of poker, drinking alcohol at a bar, putting on lipstick, among other such situations. Other interactions include door opening and picking up items of interest, though there is no inventory for you to examine the items she carries.
One problem I found was that some of the text the game offers can be difficult to read, even on a 42″ screen; there are subtitles, which I switched on assuming it would enable you to read the text in a bigger format, though it is only there to describe any sounds in the game, such as approaching footsteps. I also found that the way in which scenes suddenly cut to other scenes was a bit jarring – one minute you’re in a coffee shop, the next you are in a car driving somewhere, and this also doesn’t help when you are trying to read something, then the scene suddenly switches; it can make you feel as though you have missed out on important information. This is all done intentionally to make the game feel as though you are not only watching a film, but also interacting with it, though it does take you out of the experience when you are constantly asking yourself “Where on earth are we now?”.
Another issue was that it is never fully clear as to the roles of certain characters in the game; some you’ll see often, others will appear now and again, but it is vague as to whether they have an important role or not. Some you’ll soon recognise as being important to the plot, but others you’ll be left wondering what exactly their part was.
Virginia can be completed in around 2 hours, though the length is extended for those who enjoy searching every nook and cranny; currently the game is available for £7.19 on the Playstation Store, though the Special Edition bundle, that includes the Official Soundtrack, is priced at £9.29.
There’s not much that can be said about Virginia without spoiling the plot; I’m not going to go like a certain website and write about how important to the psyche of the main character the central cursor is, just to pad out this review. However, Virginia does its best to make you feel as though you are part of a film, placing emphasis on smaller actions, such as the eating and drinking and getting ready for work, and trying its best to make you feel as though you are the main character in ways that other first person games don’t – you aren’t just playing from the perspective of a character, you are the character. Unfortunately I never felt I was fully walking in Anne’s shoes and still very much felt like the outsider.
Virginia is a game that is best recommended once it has come down in price, and for players who want a short and sweet game to play or is for those who are looking for a bit of a break from heavy combat games and want a slower-paced experience that gives your mind a bit of a workout.