E3 2014: Hands-on: To Leave

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall

I found myself playing To Leave in much the same way as I found myself playing Hohokum. The show floor at E3 2014 is filled with tons of games you know a lot about, but every once and a while–you’re drawn to something just by the way its logo looks sitting there in the small Vita lounge on the fringe of Sony’s booth. I sat down, put my headphones on, and began playing the game that would turn out to be my unofficial “sleeper hit” of the show. By the time I was done, I’d shaken hands with one of the developers, almost had a blister on my thumb from the determination I had to conquer one of the game’s puzzles, and…took to Twitter and told everyone there to go play it. So, obviously, you know how I feel. Here’s why:

To Leave tells the story of a young man named Harm. Harm desperately wants to leave the cruel megalopolis of Candice behind, by way of his flying Door. He sets out with his Door and uses it to try to escape Candice one level at a time by floating from one end of the level to the other, seeking out a pink-faced plateau that will lead him forward.

E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall

 

The catch is–that flying door is kind of frail. If you touch anything, you get sent back to the start of the level, or the last checkpoint you touched (blue-faced plateaus). The walls don’t really fight back, but they’re difficult to navigate nonetheless. What does fight back is Candice itself–it sends monsters and obstacles after you to thwart your progress and send you back to the start. Take too long, and you lose everything. Thankfully, you can gather fiery bits to increase the time you can spend in a level, granting you more room for error. Trust me–you’re going to need some time in some of those later levels.

You control Harm by way of the control stick. Hold X near the Door to grab it. Harm can fly freely in the air when he has the door in tow, but again–To Leave is about precision, because the moment you touch anything, you get obliterated and sent back–whether to the start of the level or to the start of the game, if you fail consistently enough. Rather than take the time to describe every level I played through, I’ll pick the one I spent a large chunk of time with–the one that almost blistered my thumb, funnily enough.

E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall

The level (seen above) was one of the last ones in the demo. After a bunch of (steadily paced) levels teaching you how to play the game and ranging from easy to middle-grade difficulty, here comes this level with the guard…boxed…creature that detects your movement and quickly propels towards you. There is real, insane challenge in trying to (very quickly) get the hell out of its way before it hits you. I struggled–I got close to the end only to get pegged from behind. I hung out above its path in a safety zone, only to have the box hover below me leaving me no choice but to touch it and die. The design of the game ranges from simple to downright cruel at times–and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

You can do things like move a little faster, walk freely as Harm (without the door), navigate with some finesse…To Leave has very focused controls. Given its premise, a game that controlled badly but had you doing that kind of fancy flying would be awful. Thankfully, Freaky Creations has put a ton of time and attention into the controls. What challenged me was only the difficulty in the level designs, not poorly implemented controls.

A few notes on presentation before I wrap things up: wow, that music. One moment it seems relaxing, the next ominous. It’s really fitting to the world of Candice–one part beautiful, one part creepy. I could use the same “wow” word to describe the game’s artistic design and visuals. Its narrative seems focused, rather than supplementary, which is awesome for a game that has such addicting gameplay at its core. You would think such a fine-tuned engine (due to the Door’s fragile nature, there had to be extra time spent making collision perfect) that presentation would be an afterthought. See for yourself: it’s clearly not!

E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall
E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall E3 2014 - To Leave | oprainfall

 

Because its both addicting and challenging…because it seems smart, is beautiful to look at, and has a very unique soundtrack…To Leave and Freaky Creations should definitely be on your radar. I haven’t decided what my “Game of E3 2014” is just yet because this year was so amazing, filled with so much great stuff–but To Leave is definitely a top contender. It’s coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC in 2015. For more, visit Freaky Creations’ website. Also, follow them on Twitter!