Re:Turn - One Way Trip Review
Reviewed on PC
Halloween should be celebrated for the entire month of October, as far as I’m concerned. One night isn’t enough time to indulge in all the horror media that’s out there, and whilst nothing is stopping you from consuming them all year round, there’s nothing like the colder air and longer nights creeping in and knowing everyone else is in a similar mood. So as I was choosing which horror movies and games definitely needed to be on my list this month, I was excited to be offered the chance to review Re:Turn - One Way Trip, which I played the preview of a month ago.
Re:Turn is full of spooky delights which makes it perfect for October gaming. Set on the night of a post-graduation camping trip before five friends move on into adulthood, you play as Saki when she gets separated from the rest of her group and finds an abandoned train. It isn’t a horrifically terrifying game full of things that are going to make you jump (although, it does succeed in this a couple of times), but rather a slow burn, atmospheric piece where each chapter builds on the last until an intense finale takes place.
It isn’t an entirely conventional story either, as it plays out across two timelines; the night of the camping trip, and the night the train got destroyed. By doing this, the mystery of the train is unraveled at a good pace, as the player jumps between what happened back then and the horrors that Saki and her friend are experiencing now.
The bulk of the game is a 2D-side-scroller full of puzzles to solve, which occasionally jumps into a visual novel format when it’s mostly dialogue that’s happening. They strike a good balance, not just between the two formats, but also in terms of keeping the puzzles engaging. They vary from figuring out lock combinations to scavenger hunts, to mazes, so they never get boring. It is also notable that considering the game could easily become repetitive with constantly going up and down the train, there are very few moments I found this to be the case. The times I did, it ended up being more to do with my lack of puzzle-solving skills rather than a fault of the game.
The two things that really shine in this game are the pixel art environments and the audio. The environments are rich and fun to explore and clearly, a lot of care went into making them. Then the audio elevates the games to a new level. Sound is one of the most important parts of presenting horror on-screen, where the right music and sound effects are often vital in creating and maintaining the atmosphere. The developers of Re:Turn definitely understand this, and have created a soundtrack that perfectly builds tension and horror, and encourages your imagination to do the work if something happens off-screen.
I do, however, have two major complaints about this game. The first is that for me, the ending falls flat. The whole game hinges on the main cast’s character development, but in the final moments, this feels rushed for who is arguably the most important character. Some of the explanations about what is going on also feel like lines that were added at the last minute. In my review of the preview, I discussed how much of the dialogue in the prologue felt awkward, and whilst this improves a lot as the game goes on, it seems to revert back to this in the last moments. As the credits rolled, I was expecting an epilogue to round things off, but none came, and I was left feeling deflated.
My other complaint does contain a major spoiler, so I would skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to know.
During the game, there are potentially two LGBT+ characters introduced. One of these is Yuuta who seems to be outed by another member of the group during the prologue, although his actual sexuality is never confirmed, and the other is Kanae, who later admits to Saki that she loves her. Both characters are killed off not long after these revelations. There are a lot of deaths in the game, so it doesn’t feel like a malicious decision to specifically kill the LGBT+ characters. However, I feel like it may stem from ignorance from the writers about the history of LGBT+ character deaths in fiction, specifically after coming out so the writers don’t have to explore LGBT+ relationships in any depth. This unfortunately soured the experience for me.
Overall, this game taps into something I love about horror - not the need to fill time with cheap jump scares, but rather focusing on tension and atmosphere. In Re:Turn, this is artfully done through the environments and sound design. Where the game falls a bit short is the story. It’s not terrible, but the dialogue in places took me out of the action, and the ending doesn’t live up to expectations. I do hope we see more horror titles from Red Ego. They do have a good understanding of the genre, the elements that fall short in Re:Turn could easily be improved in future endeavors. And if you're looking for spooky games to play this October, this is one to add to your list!