Sometimes games are more than the sum of their parts. That’s how I feel about The Forest Quartet, a wonderful ethereal game that deals with the aftermath of death and the grieving of a friend. This is explained through a jazz band whose lead singer has passed away. The remaining three band mates have reacted in different ways and need to be pulled back together again to play one last time in a memorial concert. As the ghost of the singer, you’ll be lighting the way through the forest to reach them and it is a quiet but emotive experience.
Whilst the game doesn’t labour on the morbid side, it is reflective a real experience and the band mates chat among themselves as you finish an area with a puzzle in. You hear about their motives for joining the band and how they all feel like creative outcasts that found solace with each other. As its real people explaining their emotions, it doesn’t have that voice actor grandeur and to be honest, it feels more realistic and grounded as a result. These are quiet people looking for stillness in the forest and in music and everything this game does reflects that.
Puzzles are intuitive and simple, never holding you back for more than a couple of seconds. They are divided into three categories, one type per character. The first is about using energy blocks to turn on mystical music instruments that shine a light and clear the darkness of despair. The second is around turning on chains of lights in specific patterns found in the landscape around you. The third sees you turning water wheels to does the flames of anger as you turn into a stream of butterflies to navigate around different areas. You won’t need to think about anything much and I think that’s a good design decision so you can focus on the overall message and tone The Forest Quartet provides. The celestial, ethereal lighting effects are beautiful and they really sell the heavy mood.
The other part of The Forest Quartet I adored was the sound design. Every interaction seemed to trigger a sound and each sound is distorted like its bending through space and time. I recommend playing the game with headphones where you can because the machines make weird noises, you can sing ghostly notes as you move around and full jazz compositions play in the interlude sequences. It adds up to a great sensory experience and since many puzzles resemble musical instruments too, it feels like attention to detail has been given to every nuance.
The flipside is that the Forest Quartet is a short experience, over in around 90 minutes. It stayed with me long after though and has made me think many times since playing it. I’m not sure if that’s because in the last year I’ve been supporting ailing parents and that impending grief of death felt very real, but if you are attuned to that frequency, you’ll find a lot to take away here. It’s true what they say about joining the ‘Death Club’ and to me, The Forest Quartet is like some of the thought provoking soundtrack that plays in the background when you enter it.
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