Developed by Nippon Ichi Software Published by NIS America Reviewed on Vita (also available on Steam)
A Rose in the Twilight is a puzzle platformer that features unique mechanics and striking visual motifs. Much like Nippon Ichi Software’s earlier games htoL #NiQ: The Firefly Diary and Yomawari: Night Alone, it juxtaposes innocent characters with a hostile macabre universe. Its world marvelously sets the stage for a diverse puzzle solving experience.
The story is wrought with tragedy and mystery, and it constantly presents twists and turns. It begins as the girl Rose awakens amid the ruins of a desolate castle. She suffers from an inhuman condition in which several vines and a sizable rose are present on her body. As she traverses the monochromatic corridors, she soon locates a powerful faceless giant. Rose and the giant must help each other as they overcome dangerous obstacles, uncover the castle’s mysteries, and learn about the circumstances behind Rose’s curse.
A Rose in the Twilight‘s visual style is one of its most notable elements, and it is fascinating how closely it is tied to the game’s mechanics. Almost every area is entirely monochromatic, and visual filters create a hazy effect as well as darkening the edges of the screen. These factors create a foreboding atmosphere. However, the key exception is that puzzle-related objects are a vibrant red. Any red objects will follow the flow of time, react to gravity, and respond to players’ interactions. Rose can absorb one object’s redness at a time, which will cause that object to freeze in place. She can also dispense color into specific colorless objects. The result is an intuitive base for puzzle solving that highlights objects of interest. Deaths and certain actions also create minor blood sprays, which further accentuates the game’s striking visual style.
The game’s objective is straightforward, but varied situations constantly keep players on their toes. In each room, Rose and the giant must reach a designated end point. However, their disparate size and traits frequently force them to travel separately. Players constantly switch between controlling Rose or the giant so that the two can re-unite by the end of each room. This basic flow helps unify players’ experience among the game’s many obstacles that players will face. The two characters are functionally and visually distinct from each other. Whereas Rose can easily die from falling too far, grazing the game’s many thorns, being crushed, and being attacked, the giant is practically invincible unless it falls into a bottomless pit. However, only Rose can manipulate color and handle specific tools. Correctly utilizing the characters’ unique powers often requires deliberation, careful handling, and some trial and error. As a result, the game rewards persistence and patience.
A Rose in the Twilight presents an interestingly wide array of puzzle solving tools, but the game’s occasional haphazardness can dampen players’ enjoyment. Each major section of the castle revolves around a unique set of tools. For example, the armory revolves around catapults and barrels, and these tools create numerous puzzle solving possibilities. Rose and the giant also encounter a variety of dangerous flora and fauna. However, some hazards feel unnecessarily ambiguous. The most notable case is how thorns can appear like soft colorless foreground objects, but they will actually instantly kill Rose upon contact. At times the game requires jumping onto moving objects in a specific manner, but Rose’s slightly floaty jumps can lead to unexpected deaths. While the game does revolve around trial and error, these particular cases slow the game’s pace rather than contributing to a fulfilling puzzle solving experience. Players can move the right stick to look further away, but a few rooms’ puzzle solving cues are placed a bit too far away from the player’s path, which can be slightly disorienting.
Players will undoubtedly retry sequences numerous times, and experiencing the game’s robust lore serves as a compelling reward for successfully completing tasks. Acquiring collectible items uncovers additional details regarding the castle’s tragic history. These items include excellently written diary entries that portray characters’ intentions, thoughts, and emotions in a compelling fashion. Another item is a “blood memory,” which consists of silhouetted character cut-scenes that further create a sense of intrigue. These collectibles provide a fascinating look into the game’s universe. However, the game alternates between periods of presenting substantial lore to not presenting much at all, and the inconsistency can feel somewhat strange.
The game’s sound design excellently bolsters the game’s mysterious nature. Each major area of the castle features a unique haunting track. Whenever players acquire a “blood memory,” the game plays an echo-filled brief overture. Some memories are accompanied by slower tracks that appropriately create a sense of uncertainty. The characters’ echoing footsteps evoke uneasiness as players explore many areas of the castle.
A Rose in the Twilight‘s journey is decently sized, and players can expect to spend approximately five to six hours before reaching the game’s credits. Players may spend varying amounts of time depending on how they respond to a few rooms’ somewhat ambiguous cues. The game’s post-game material also adds a few more hours to the experience. Players can spend extra time traveling off the beaten path to acquire collectibles, and some of the post-game challenges require a fair amount of persistence to complete. Reaching the game’s conclusion requires a decent amount of effort, but experiencing the game’s cryptic and haunting universe is worth players’ time.