The proliferation of indie games on PS4 is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there is the potential for many hidden gems and lesser heralded titles to fill the gaps between bigger titles and to provide gaming entertainment for the more constrained wallet. However, on the other hand, there is the possibility for straight out bad games – although, this also applies to full retail titles too. For every The Sexy Brutale, there is a Super Rude Bear. So, where on this spectrum does Well Bred Rhino’s The Last Stitch Goodnight fall?
The game begins with your character awakening from a near-death experience before being captured and imprisoned by a mysterious group of lab-coated antagonists. The early part of the game sets out a creepy atmosphere really successfully, leaving the motivations and actions of the antagonist suitably unclear and mysterious. Even the character who frees you appears conflicted.
What follows is a fairly conventional arcade adventure involving finding objects to solve puzzles and unlock doors, with the gameplay never really being elevated from the functional. However, it is the quality of the writing and the grander questions which the game tackles that maintained my interest through to the final credits.
Billed as embracing ‘a new modern mythology’, The Last Stitch feels like a cross between the Metroidvania staples of an environment that gradually opens up as you acquire new powers and the flat 2D worlds of Paper Mario. The combat doesn’t really live up to these influences, however, and is perhaps the weakest aspect of the game. While you can choose from a range of weapons, you will mostly find yourself relying on whichever one you found most recently, which leaves a missed opportunity for a more tactical approach where enemies have particular weaknesses to exploit. You can get through the whole game without requiring much skill, though that might not be such a bad thing; not all games can or need to be Dark Souls.
The first ability you acquire is the power to separate your ‘spark’ from your body. This spark – and its nature – represents the main philosophical subject of the game. The mansion you explore is wonderfully generic in a knowing fashion, leaving the game open to clear comparisons with the likes of Resident Evil. Much as with Capcom’s franchise, Last Stitch is concerned with the ethics and actions of scientific explorations into the nature of mortality and the potential for expanding, or adapting, the physical form.
Much as in Resident Evil, the internal logic becomes somewhat muddled, leading to you having to face a mutated menagerie of ‘human’, robotic and monstrous foes. The variety of enemies does go some way towards ensuring that the combat doesn’t become too monotonous, although its limitations prevent it from ever being more than an annoyance. I quickly found myself wanting to rush through these encounters in order to progress the narrative and work through the various quests.
The range of enemies you encounter are quickly revealed to be somewhat pathetic figures, and as they lash out at you in impotent anger you almost begin to feel sorry for them. This sympathy for the enemy is furthered by the wittily written medical files you collect that reveal the origins of each type of mutation. The trivial way in which life is dismissed through these accounts of failed experimentation highlights the villainous excesses of the shadowy mad scientist who becomes your main antagonist.
The quests you follow are nicely presented and you can purchase an item that helps to guide you to each objectives. However, I didn’t feel the game really explained the journal well enough and I kind of stumbled across it when pausing for a comfort break. Once I had found it, it worked well and helped to keep track of the various objectives that more detailed exploration uncovered. Equally, the use of objects and consumables is a little unintuitive at first, relying on selection wheels linked to the shoulder buttons.
Having opened up this review with a clear split between good and bad indie games, it is perhaps inevitable that The Last Stitch Goodnight sits squarely between these two extremes. Whilst I loved the meditations on life and identity, the game never really felt polished enough to avoid detracting from the overall experience. It is by no means a bad game, but ends up as perhaps the very epitome of average. I am intrigued enough by the writing to want to see what Well Bred Rhino comes up with next, and don’t begrudge the time I spent playing through The Last Stitch Goodnight. However, given the frankly ridiculous flood of quality titles this year, I would find it hard to recommend this one over many others.
Version Tested: PS4