Dreams Are Fragile Things

HIGH Passing ten obstacles without touching the controller once.

LOW Multiple sets of rotating blades with no gap between them.

WTF That clown might be a little too scary, honestly.

As far as nightmares go, being transformed into a Christmas tree ornament is pretty unsettling. Think about it — one would be frozen forever in a single expression designed to capture their essence, and made of the thinnest and most fragile glass possible. It’s not a dream I’ve ever experienced, but Rest In Pieces suggests that it would be harrowing.

Set inside the subconscious of different characters, Rest In Pieces offers players the chance to save a series of innocents from demonic forces by swinging their charges — human souls transformed into ornaments — through an obstacle course of constantly-scrolling dangers. Simply brushing against any of them will shatter the victim into a shower of glass fragments.

At its core, Rest In Pieces is the simplest physics experience imaginable. Using a thumbstick, players add force to the left or right of an ornament to either speed up or slow down its swinging motion as it travels.

Only a small bit of force can be added in either direction, but by switching sides at the right moment, it’s simple enough to send the decoration flying back and forth. The controls are completely intuitive and the physics feel perfectly accurate, so it’s always simple to get the ornament swinging exactly the way the player wants. Whether they can time those swings through the various courses is another matter entirely.

Rest In Pieces does a great job with its visuals — the glossy sheen of the ornaments is perfectly crafted, and serve as tiny glimpses of color and life in the foreboding, obsidian worlds they swing through. Each area is made up entirely of black and silver, with shimmering moonlight providing texture to the various threats that loom over the player. It’s a great aesthetic which does a fantastic job of conveying the intended tone of bleak threat.

There’s a surprising amount of variety in the characters. Not only is each one is a slightly different size (forcing players to constantly change up their strategies) but some actually have different quirks in the way they move. A drunken sea captain, for example, is perpetually spinning, meaning that the player won’t be able to count on his protrusions being at a constant position. Even more impressive is the surfer who turns her board from side to side with each directional change, requiring an entirely different kind of compensation.

While the look and feel of Rest In Pieces is great, the developers have dropped the ball on level construction. For some baffling reason, they’ve elected to go with random level generation — a choice that not only makes each boss area feel repetitive, but it makes playing far more difficult than it should be.

Instead of each course functioning as a series of challenges that build over time, the challenge is completely unpredictable and players are forced to start from scratch each time they die. Sure, they’ll recognize different segments that can randomly appear and the same tricks will work on each one, but the sudden shift in randomized threat leads to countless unfair deaths.

There were so many times I found myself gently nudging a character through a tight canyon, only to find that it exited into a series of boulders that took up half the screen, and leaving me without enough time to get a powerful swing going. Yes, players can continue twice on each course, but those continues cost the same resource that’s used to unlock new characters, which forces players to grind levels over and over again if they want to progress.

There are 18 different characters in Rest In Pieces (three for each boss), and if each one had its own handcrafted challenge for players to master, that would have been a perfect amount of game. Instead, players never know what they’re going to get at the start of a level — it replaces fair challenge with capriciousness, to its detriment.

After three hours I was nearly halfway through the content, and I found myself unable to continue. Rest In Pieces has a wonderful look and great controls, but if the developers had worked on evening out the challenge, they’d have had a winner. Sadly, in its current state the game is only suitable for those who can accept a truly epic amount of frustration in exchange for some beautiful art design.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Team Itatake. It is currently available on Switch, iOS, and Android. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and has no content warnings. While the levels are creepy and the villains menacing, there’s nothing scary enough to keep any child of 10 or older from playing it.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the game without any sound and encountered no trouble! It’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. Using a thumbstick, players add force to the left or right of an ornament to either speed up or slow down its swinging motion as it travels.

Daniel Weissenberger
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Mattias Granat
3 years ago

Thank you for the well written review. Would like to clearify one thing though. A reason why you having difficulties (other than that it is truly a challanging game) to beat the game might be that you are using the thumbstick. We recommend as stated in the turorial that you use L and R buttons to swing as it makes it easier to time your swings.

Swing controllers to choose:
– L & R buttons (recommended)
– ZL & ZR
– Thumbstick

Activate boosters:
– A button

Kind regards
Mattias (Itatake)