To the Moon, A Bird’s Story, and Finding Paradise, are three games that have touched me on an emotional level that few other titles ever could. While severely light on interactivity, these projects have such beautiful storytellings and characters, that I am surprised that they are not more talked about. Finally, the people at Freebird Games have released their latest entry, Impostor Factory, in order to continue this saga. I honestly have no clue of what to expect, but I am ready to cry my heart out once again.
On a dark and stormy night, Quincy is on his way to a party at a mansion. Despite that he has no idea of why he got invited or even where this place is, he decides to attend. Although, as soon as he does so, things start to get strange and uncomfortable. This is as far as I can go without spoiling the bizarre surprises, but this is yet another strong tale that deals with familiar elements from its predecessors, like existentialism and ethics. Thankfully, the plot allows lighthearted moments to enter as nice breathers as well, such as jokes about a red herring and an adorable rice cooker who obviously knows what will soften anyone’s agony.
I also admire this game for taking you on a stroll with what seems like simple or awkward characters, but eventually give good reasons for this slow beginning. In fact, everything is wonderfully developed. All significant parts of the story get enough time to become fulfilling and do not go overboard with unnecessary expositions, providing good weight to this journey. Unfortunately, the overall plot is focused on a rather cliche romance. Everyone in the cast has believable personalities with good dialogues and connections, but this structure is rather traditional than memorable.
However, when this takes a backseat to let the overall lore shine, things start to get fascinatingly surreal due to touching upon bigger themes that got sidelined in order to let the characters shine. What is then a shame, is that this aspect and certain twists rely heavily on knowledge from the previous titles, to the point that it can be hard to get invested because of minimal explanations to what is going on. Regrettably, having played the previous entries can also be problematic, since it will make this story predictable after the first 15 minutes.
This confusing issue comes from how this instalment does not have enough to stand on its own. It has too many familiar tropes and sidelines the unique elements it has to offer, turning this into a novel rather than a great continuation of the series’ legacy. This is still a heartwarming and sweet adventure, even if the ending felt rushed and forced. It simply struggles to find a clear audience due to trying to appeal to both fans and newcomers, with no idea on how to do so properly. While this pleases no one completely, I can say that this tale is definitely an emotional one that almost made me cry.
Story Score: 7/10
Where is the play button?
Narrative titles are a hard subject for me to tackle, because of how the gameplay can be barely present. Impostor Factory is a big example of the fears I have for lacking interactivity, as there is basically nothing to say here. Only the beginning has any form of searching, and despite that it gave me hope for more things to do, the entire journey becomes a hallway with the occasional need for pushing another button than the D-pad. Even the ability to run is sometimes gone for no real reason and there are no forms of puzzles to make this trip remotely adequate either. You just move in an overhead view to the next location at the game’s speed for three hours, with your destinations being always evident. Why is this not a movie at this point?
Gameplay Score: 1/10
This project includes lovely pixel art and cute facial expressions to the cast, making me still impressed with what details RPG makers can provide. There are plenty of neat animations to the characters and nice timing to every scary, touching, and comedic moment. Sadly, the areas you visit are rather mundane and traditional places that rarely have anything interesting to them. A university, a scientific workplace, and the homes of our protagonist; none of these contains set pieces to become more personal or intriguing. It all feels like a blatant setup for a movie.
Furthermore, the detailed paintings are a clear contrast to the rest of the pixel art, though not too commonly used to completely break the immersion. However, the more surreal events are too sparse and it makes the storytelling become underwhelming. Even when they do appear, they are not imaginative enough to give a lasting impression. There also seems to have been a lot of cut content, as there will be hallways of memories that jump over tons of what are essentially strong moments. Removing parts to avoid making anything chew the scene is important, but visuals can be better utilized to tell about someone’s life than just photographs quickly appearing.
Kan Gao returns as the composer, and while there are recognisable tracks included from Freebird’s other games that are still wonderful, this one also brings in a ton of new melodies that offer more diverse tones. They can be dark and sinister, jazzy with a neat beat to them or calming, all utilised perfectly to enhance varied moods throughout this journey. His music is truly something to behold, containing different instruments, gorgeous use of notes and rhythms, and a commendable amount of genres being tackled. It is all amazing and effective.
Presentation Score: 7/10
This is a product that is quite similar to its predecessors, but not for the better. It can still provide emotional scenes through its storytelling and the magnificent soundtrack does help, but this entry struggles to stand on its own. It is too restricted in its imagination to feel like an interesting continuation of the series and too limited in its romance to have it leave any strong impact. Impostor Factory still has heart and definitely offers a decent time, but is more of a sidetrack than anything else. Those who value interactivity will especially be disappointed.