A good old twist to the heart.
Atmos Games, the one-man operation by Thomas Brush (creator of Coma), has brought its latest invention Pinstripe to Xbox One and PS4 with the help of Armor Games, after originally launching on PC in 2017. With a compelling, deep narrative, a unique art style and an original music score created by Brush himself, this adventure puzzle game looks and feels awesome.
Pinstripe is arguably a tale of redemption, as we take control of Ted, a former Minister and father of Bo, and try to rescue her after being kidnapped by the main antagonist of the game and mysterious nemesis, Mr. Pinstripe.
Pinstripe starts inside a train, by which Ted and Bo seem to be travelling somewhere. After exploring some of the different cars, Mr. Pinstripe makes an appearance and proceeds to take little Bo against her will for motives that are unclear. Immediately after, the train crashes and we’ll start exploring the forest area of Edge Wood in order to rescue little Bo.
Pinstripe is all about uncovering the real nature of Ted’s little adventure and Bo’s kidnapping and how it relates to his past and life story. It proves that a script doesn’t have to be overly complicated and full of twists to accomplish the desired effect, while also stressing the importance of details, deepness and meaning.
While it begins with a rivalry between two men, with a little girl caught in the middle, little clues and pieces of the puzzle will start giving the feeling that something more serious and grim is going on. Ted has a faithful companion, his talking dog George, who follows him everywhere in this adventure and acts as a navigating companion.
Brush made it clear even through the trailer that Pinstripe takes place in Ted’s particular vision of Hell, and that’s something to have in mind while trying to make heads or tails of the meaning of every detail in the game. Even the quite irrelevant currency of the crystal drops that are spread around each screen have a deeper meaning, as well as the constant numbness and mood-changing personalities of the different characters.
In my case, by the end I felt bad: the symbolism started sinking in and when the last scene finally came to a conclusion the whole puzzle was in front of me. Sadness, remorse and redemption in purgatory are three main themes in Pinstripe that initially will seem unrelated. Let me clarify: it’s not a bad thing that this game had made me feel bad. Pinstripe is special because, among other things, it’s one of those games which generates real emotions in its players.
This is not a spoiler. Even Thomas Brush talks about Hell and Heaven in the game’s website, while also uploading a full walkthrough, almost erasing any doubt that his intention is telling a story through a game, not creating a game that also tells a story. Albeit, his creation is as fun as it is interesting.
As evidenced earlier, the storyline is quite simple. Gameplay mechanics are defined by the puzzle, adventure and narrative genres with a nice addition of free exploration untied to the limitations of different screens. Players can go back and forth, left and right, revisiting previous scenarios freely.
Controls are basic, though don’t get me wrong, they are finely polished and as a minimalistic and short game, nothing more is required. Ted can move left and right, jump, shoot and interact with an action button.
Almost every bit of progress is made through the solving of very unique puzzles. Thomas Brush proves to be a very talented mind in gaming development, having single-handedly thought about and carried out a very solid and engaging experience, filled with fun mini-games like “Find the 10 differences between these two pictures to get a new clue”, or “Play this Flappy Bird-like puzzle and open this safe”.
As we advance through areas like Edge Wood, The Hangly Pass, Pissward Falls and Red Wash we’ll get new tools and knowledge that’ll allow us to go back to previously inaccessible areas and unlock their secrets and collectibles.
Apart from the three main characters already portrayed there are several other people populating Pinstripe’s world, many of whose British English and rude, frustrated tone reminded me a lot of Bloodborne’s few dialogue sections. This aspect is emphasized by the dark and somewhat creepy general ambience. All of these seem to be addicted to some kind of product that Mr. Pinstripe provides for which has made them groggy and numb.
Nearly every conversation Ted has with the people he encounters will have two different options for us to choose: the polite one and the rude I-don’t-care-about-you one. As always in these kinds of situations, player’s choices will have an ulterior effect in the end.
Pinstripe is a work of art in its drawing and design, with a carefully chosen colour palette and an original music score composed by Brush (as with everything else in Pinstripe), that envelopes the player’s experience in a single cohesive and smooth delivery.
Brush’s style is clearly noticeable in every tree, house and cave. There are some effects like lighting which blew my mind at certain parts, like when Ted’s wearing a flashlight helmet inside some dark caves and messages started appearing on walls. The feeling of these moments is truly unique.
Brush delivers a well thought-out, deep and emotional tale in the shape of a very fun and immersive game. Even at being a profound product of narrative, mini-games and puzzles will keep anyone entertained for a decent six to ten hours. It will probably have a very clear shot at one’s heart along the way. Pinstripe also has some very real replayability as it offers different endings according to the player’s choices and some cosmetic items that can only be obtained through different playthroughs.
Even though its mechanics and gameplay weren’t my usual cup of tea, I absolutely loved Pinstripe. Most importantly, I found it to be genuinely emotional and thought-provoking.