The Wreck review: a rudimentary trip upstream of memory

As the time loops of video games go by, the body of the shipThe endlessly repeated car accident of ‘is probably one of the worst fates one gets stuck in. Sure, it’s not as bad as the ‘death by an exploding sun’ in Outer Wilds, for example, but when each collision is also accompanied by heroine Junon reliving a traumatic memory from her past that she’ll need to sort through and analyze before she can (literally) move on with her life, I suppose one of the two punches of sudden physical and emotional trauma contains emotional depth is perhaps equal to having your own skin and muscles torn apart by a massive supernova. You know, figuratively speaking.

Then again, calling The Wreck a time loop game isn’t entirely accurate. Really, it’s a 3D visual novel with a clear beginning, middle, and end, but it’s what borrows the form and structure of repeated memories to elegantly unearth Junon’s personal history as she tries to understand more clearly about their past and present. It’s like a series of miniature time loops, and they’re all built for Junon to make a single, life-changing decision that will have far-reaching consequences for her future.

And it’s also a decision – certainly not one you want to lie down on, but that’s where we find Junon at the beginning of this terrible day: on the floor of a dingy hospital bathroom as soon as he’s discovered. appeared her mother. on vital life support after a brain aneurysm. That’s not even half of it, though. It also turns out that Junon is now in charge of deciding what happens next regarding her mother’s hospital care – an agreement that never took place in person but because her mother forged her signature. her daughter on hospital forms.

Unsurprisingly, Junon wasn’t the most pleased about this. She had a difficult relationship with her mother, or Marie as she preferred to call her, and she couldn’t understand why she was given such a responsibility. Not when her older sister Diane has always been the person closest to her mother, or when her mother has spent most of the better time of Junon’s adult life criticizing nearly every decision she makes. she once offered, from choosing a career as a struggling screenwriter to making her own choices. parenting style. It’s a dilemma that Junon will spend the rest of the day trying to solve, and how does she, an estranged daughter with a ton of emotional burdens of her own, have to deal with. decisions, most of which point to her mother – being able to determine what is right or wrong. what Marie wants.

The interior of a car midway through a collision, with objects toppling over in front of the driver in The Wreck
When Junon tries to run away from her problems, her car will crash and memory objects will flash before her eyes as they fly out of her bag.

As with any good form of therapy, Junon’s soul search begins with a lot of conversations, first with her doctor and then with members of her close family – Diane, ex-husband Alex, etc. This dialogue is mostly automatic, but at certain points you can also choose to listen to Junon’s inner monologue by choosing the big words that appear around your lips. her school. These introspective thoughts often add flavor to Junon’s real-life conversations at that particular moment, but they can also cut through and break into the conversation, informing some of the answers. which you can choose at certain times.

Some words you won’t be able to click, and they’ll disappear as quickly as you catch a glimpse of them. At these points, Junon will become confused and angry, and she will angrily run away from the scene, get in her car and drive away, triggering the next stage of memory tracing that repeats the time. her time. On the road, she will constantly steer to avoid hitting a deer, crashing a car and sending things in her bag flying around in front of her. As time slows down, each of these objects allows her to uncover a distinct memory from her past, and when she has considered it fully, time will reset her place. that. Now, armed with renewed emotional power, she can face the words that have escaped her before and steer the conversation in a more productive direction.

A woman gets into her red car in The Wreck, with the word ASSHOLE hovering over the roof.

Two women having a lively conversation at the dinner table in The Wreck

Big white words like ASSHOLE (left) speak to Junon’s inner thoughts, while the usual yellow dialogue (right) automatically plays out.

Certainly, there was a certain degree of contrivedness involved in how Junon was able to focus on certain thoughts and memories in the middle of a conversation, constantly analyzing and mulling over various answers, shaped finished perfectly while someone else was sitting there waiting for an answer, but the overall presentation still felt natural and organic. This is in no small part thanks to Sharlit Deyzac’s bubbly performance as Junon, though in fact the entire voice cast deserves a special mention here, for the way the nuances of the character are conveyed. they did an excellent job of filling in the gaps left by its tone. Sky tunnel-cartoon style (this is no surprise, given The Wreck uses exactly the same game engines). Some might find its showtime nature as jarring as Inkle’s interstellar translation adventure, but it gives The Wreck a proper story-scenario-style quality that feels right. It’s like being at home with the way the story is actually framed – that is, when you first launch The Wreck, you’re actually playing the role of Junon writing the script of these events on her laptop.

A script window on a laptop in The Wreck
The events of the game are actually written as scripts on Junon’s laptop. Alas, you can never go back and read the whole script, but the developers are working to adapt it into a real novel.

For me, it’s the tension of writing, creating, and using your life’s experiences to inspire great art that really lies at the heart of The Wreck, and it’s explored in a way. detailed, excellent manner throughout the game’s five-hour runtime. It remains a wonderfully sensitive examination of grief, family, toxic relationships, and personal discovery, but it does so through the lens of grappling with burden, fallout, and distress. The exhilarating rush of the creative process – and the impact it can have on those around You. It’s there in Marie’s work as a world-renowned artist (beautifully discovered in an art exhibit centered around one of Junon’s recurring memories), and it’s there in the way Junon wrote this whole script, using all the conventions of movies, TV, and games to craft a story of impact, warts and all as she faces the odds. his past mistakes.

A scene of a candlelit dining table with a bottle of wine inside The Wreck

A woman stands in front of a burning kitchen in The Wreck

Two young girls looking at an injured bird in the garden at The Wreck
Each memory scene is a beautifully constructed vignette that you can rewind and fast forward to uncover new details in Junon’s recollection of the event. The camera moves along a fixed line and uses quite a bit of motion blur, but there’s a setting to reduce its effect if you feel nauseous.

And those past mistakes are explored in haunting, classic detail – the same moment that replays over and over in Junon’s head until she dissects every last detail of it. The way one object flows into the next is immediately reminiscent of last year’s excellence Reconsiderationbut using right and left mouse to rewind and time lapse also has touch Strange La river life about it, although here you’re hunting for objects that will trigger more words and thoughts to appear on screen than actually changing the events described. It doesn’t take long to figure out the words, but the arc and bulge of each scene, the angle of the camera swooping and the artistic construction of each memory, all work together to deliver a powerful punch. punched painfully hard every time. I don’t want to spoil any specifics, but watch out for the interlocking dollhouse and snap bathroom scenes. They really are something special.

As you might expect from the manufacturers Bury me, my loveThis is a cutting game deep, and when I got to the end of Junon’s journey, I really felt like I was on my own to find my soul. The important thing, however, is that this is not a game that buries itself in its own misery. It’s not a laughable riot, but there’s a enduring dynamism and a sense of optimism to be found amid its emotional wreckage, and the more Junon discovers about himself, the story. Hers became even more enchanting. There’s real heart to be found in The Wreck, and its climactic ending is so dramatic and emotional that you can’t help but feel as though you know yourself a little better than you did at the start. David Cage wishes, that’s what I’m saying, and the next time there’s a debate about who’s the great provider of mature, emotional storytelling in the game, it’s The Wreck absolutely. should be at the top of that list. Not Naughty Dog, or Quantic Dream, but this one. In that sense, maybe I was a bit hasty in calling this the worst time loop that can get you stuck. If playing this game, it can produce a bright light like a supernova sun on what it means to navigate the ups and downs of adult life. and still come out the other side incomplete and overall, ah, wreck, I’d say it’s pretty well spent time.


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