Puzzling through romance
‘A Fold Apart’ provides an honest look at long-distance relationships
A Fold Apart
Developed and published by Lightning Rod Games
Available on Apple Arcade, Mac OSX, Nintendo Switch, Windows, and iOS
A Fold Apart focuses on a loving, long-term couple that has recently become long-distance due to a promising job opportunity offered to the architect of the relationship. The blue architect relocates to a bustling city to work on an ambitious project meant to jumpstart their career path. The orange teacher stays behind in their nature-filled home. No matter where they go or what they do, there are always visual cues that enable one to miss the other.
For the most part, the plot is propelled by the couple’s text message conversations. Players move the spotlighted character along the side-scrolling scenery, occasionally pausing to decide between two text message prompts to send to the current character’s other half. We are given glimpses of the couple’s loving relationship through these text messages, but we are also granted insights into the insecurities and anxieties they each hold.
The negative aspects of their relationship become puzzle levels throughout the game, with each new level increasing in complexity as both partners think themselves further and further into a rabbit hole of doubt and resentment. Generally, the origami-esque solutions to the puzzles are an innovative mechanic I’d personally never played with before. However, with the growing complexity and increasing ways to manipulate the level, I would sometimes find myself folding the character into multiple deadends with no clear path to the goal in sight. By the end of the game, I was overwhelmed by all the ways you could fold, twist, and flip a level that I’d forget some of the mechanics that were introduced earlier.
Of course, that is the point of a puzzle game — to puzzle the gamer and make them think further — but I think the developers could have cut back on the number of manipulations a level could go through and instead focus on cleverer ways to formulate levels with a smaller set of manipulation actions for the player. The movement of the characters also tends to be awkward and at times buggy, which impedes the flow of gameplay when you’re just waiting on the character to finish climbing over a box.
Considering A Fold Apart is Lightning Rod Games’ first foray into the world, I will give them credit for creating an honest portrayal of the hardships of a long-distance relationship (within the confines of a family-friendly story) as well as creating a puzzle game with unique mechanics. I also appreciate allowing players the ability to pick the couple’s gender expression so that they can feel represented in the gameplay, but I would have expected smoother gameplay since the team consists of industry veterans. Nonetheless, A Fold Apart still stands as a solid debut, and I hope the studio only goes up from here on out.