The title Fall of Porcupine can be read two ways. One interpretation conjures images of changing seasons, feastly togetherness, and cozy pursuits. The other, obliteration. Though I’m only a few hours into developer Critical Rabbit’s empathetic adventure, I’m already impressed at its remarkable ability to encompass both concepts.
Sharing DNA with Night in the Woods, Fall of Porcupine focuses on the unfortunately relatable story of an enthusiastic new medical professional — who also happens to be a pigeon. Eager to prove his place and make his way in the world, Finley flings himself to the point of exhaustion trying to distinguish himself at his first real job, a hospital being held together with tape and wishful thinking.
The incredible writing captures the spirit of burnout, of moving to a new place full of hope and giving everything you’ve got to keep treading water. All of this plays out on a backdrop of hand-drawn art that’s just good for the soul and alongside engaging, funny, and authentic characters.
Day-to-day life for the medically inclined bird starts off with a frantic jog to the hospital. The buses are inevitably not running, some construction project or other blocks my way, and shifts have a way of making time fly by. Along my route, I being to learn about my new home and the personalities of its residents. Like life, I have to make time after busy days to get to know them on a deeper level, but there’s never enough time to catch up with everyone.
That is if my routine leaves me any energy at the end of the day. While at the hospital, I make rounds, diagnosing, treating, and prescribing medication. Every single one of these actions has its own associated minigame and doing well is important. After every one, I get a letter grade that determines not only my patients’ well-being, but also whether my intimidating superior will give me a scolding. My favorite of these is performing treatments, as it requires me to push and keep hold of a tangle of buttons in a limited span of time.
The twister-like result feels like a tangible metaphor for attempting to do something in practice you’ve only ever learned in a classroom setting. Or, really, it makes me feel like Finley. And that’s all while changing up the gameplay from the adventure game staple of talking to people and reading, admittedly well-written, dialogue.
While the game so far has centered around adjusting to my new life, making connections, and trying to impress my boss, I have the feeling something more disquieting waits on the horizon. A mysterious accident on my first day, an abandoned ward on the fifth floor, it all seems to be leading somewhere. Whether that means Fall of Porcupine‘s plot takes a sinister turn or I start getting crushed under the weight of compassion fatigue, I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.