An Emotional Metamorphosis
HIGH Narrative between levels gave me emotional drive to finish.
LOW A programming glitch hindered my progress for weeks.
WTF Just what is that plant in the level selection menu supposed to be?
It could be argued that videogames can tell certain stories better than other media because the interactive element contributes to the connection between a player’s experience and the developer’s intentions. Such was the case for me in She Remembered Caterpillars.
This color-based puzzler caught my eye with its lush, hand-drawn environments, but it surprised me with a gradual difficulty curve and emotional narrative. Apart from experiencing a now-patched game-breaking bug (pun not intended) and being unable to continue for weeks, there was hardly anything for me to dislike in SRC.
The premise is simple — every stage has a number of pathways formed by various pillar tiles. The creatures the player controls are actually little white creatures (reminiscent of comic book ghosts, design-wise) which I can only identify as bugs for a lack of context. The player must lead these red, yellow or blue color-coded bugs to target tiles. Luckily, any color bug is valid for any objective tile. As long as there’s one bug on each destination tile, the level is complete.
The start of SRC is easy, but the difficulty grows steadily as the game introduces challenges. Color-coded bridges and gateways soon appear, although unlike the destination tiles, these are gated by color. In order to deal with these, the player can then mix the bugs into secondary colors — purple, green and orange. All it takes is for two bugs to merge is to stand next to each other and press a button, and it’s just as simple to disconnect them.
Despite a straightforward formula, the level design makes optimal use of it. Every level felt just a tad harder than the last, and carelessly trying different options hardly ever succeeded. It generally seems like there’s only one available solution to a level, meaning that an error could lead to starting over. Luckily, there’s an easy reset option, and good thing, too — the inclusion of new gimmicks such as specific color-removal or color-creating machines and creating new bridges towards the end of the campaign made me press that button more times than I’d like to admit here.
While the puzzle formula might scare off casual players, SRC’s narrative content succeeded in motivating me (generally not a puzzle fan) to keep making progress.
SRC is divided into several acts, each with their own unique atmosphere and the overall theme is that of saying goodbye to beloved family members — there’s a strong father-daughter relationship being illustrated here, and the hardships of caring about each other are clearly presented. Additionally, it felt as though a puzzle’s complexity could be related to the relationship’s troubles, giving me an extra motivation to ‘fix’ things.
This powerful relation between themes, level design and gameplay were great, and I would have had this positive review done ages ago except that my progress was halted due to a programming glitch — I was unable to proceed and had to wait for a patch. (This issue is now solved.) Sadly, when I could finally got back in, my connection with the story had vanished, although the themes remained recognizable.
That issue aside, She Remembered Caterpillars is a beautifully crafted and well-designed puzzler that also touches on the grief of losing a parent. While the game doesn’t tackle its emotional themes on a large scale, it certainly left a lasting impression on me after only a few hours of gameplay.
Disclosures: She Remembered Caterpillars was developed by jumpsuit entertainment UG and published by Ysbryd Games and WhisperGames and is available on PC and Nintendo Switch. This copy of the game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Approximately 5 hours were devoted to the game and it was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: She Remembered Caterpillars is rated E by the ESRB. The dialogue involves heavy themes such as death and sadness, but there is no gore or any visually intense imagery.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue comes via text and no level relies on audio cues. This title is fully accessible.
Remappable controls: The controls of this game are not remappable.
David has had a passion for writing since childhood, but rather than writing stories, he started reading them and figured that the only way a Harry Potter universe would truly come to life would be in a videogame. His favorite genre in literature, dystopian fiction, seemed to have especially unlimited potential in this new medium. Despite appreciating and regularly engaging with many different art forms, David's dedicated himself mostly to the playable one.
Born and raised a Dutchman, David can tell you everything about 'stroopwafels' and what it's like to live in the liberal capital of the world. That is, if he isn't holed up in his room and enjoying the American entertainment industry.