PC, Mac, Switch, iOs, Android
How To Say Goodbye is a novel narrative puzzle game, in which you slide rows of tiles around in order to move characters and keys in order to create pathways to a level’s exit. Which makes it sound far more traditional than it is. It’s one of those puzzle games where watching a video is far more communicative than my trying to painstakingly spell it out in words.
There. Job done.
Right, so you know how it plays, but is it fun? Yes! Wow, this reviewing business is easy.
OK, let’s be somewhat more helpful. HTSG is, by its own presentation, a game about death. Except, well, for the most part it just isn’t. From the opening titles warning players that they may be upset by its contents, to the way it presents itself in marketing materials, this all sets itself up to be this maudlin game about struggling through grief. It isn’t that. It’s a game about some ghosts that are trying to move on into their afterlife. Then, right at the end, there’s a rushed expository job of the importance of moving on or what have you. I genuinely can’t work out if the developer’s belief that they’ve created some sort of poignant treatise on the struggles of mortality is a failing here, or if I’m just relieved it turns out it’s not yet another game endlessly whining on about being sad.
If anything, it’s rather light-hearted. You change which ghostie you’re playing as the story progresses, despite being able to choose the name of the one you start with, and indeed its favourite food. Then it’s much more about how much everyone likes cheesecake (because it is the best of foods) than wrestling with the futility of existence. And good! Sliding the floor around to press buttons would have been the most wildly inappropriate way to mess with people’s grief.
OK, I’ve laboured that point enough. My only other gripe here, and it’s another weird one, is that the reasonably short game goes on too long. So many puzzles are repeats, and while it’s nice to chat with ghosts in new scenes, and often the puzzle design is really splendid, just as often I feel as though I’m doing the same thing as I did on the previous screen. A fun thing! It’s no chore. But some judicious editing would have reduced the game by a third, and have had it zip along at a much more pleasing pace.
I feel like all I’ve done is complain. But I’ve had a lovely time with this! The ending is mawkish, but I forgive it for such an original puzzle concept, with such exceptionally interesting art. The colour palettes used are extraordinary, and I really like the hand-drawn look of all the characters. Occasionally it can be bemusing why the tiles move in a certain direction, but it’s always done according to the game’s rules, consistently. This is a novel, sweet little game, that perhaps purports to be far more Important than it actually is, but that’s genuinely for the best.