What Remains of A Slow Genre
HIGH The suspense and narrative tension.
LOW Slow exploration between plot points.
WTF Playing a quarantine game while actually in quarantine.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster takes place in Montana during the year 1993. The player controls Nicole, a girl who’s returning to the state after leaving with her mother several years before. She visits with the intention of selling a hotel inherited from her deceased father, but upon arrival, a seemingly eternal snowstorm hits and a sequence of clichéd events follows…
Rachel‘s story mainly focuses on family drama. Nicole’s dad cheated on her mother with the titular Rachel — a 16-year-old who became pregnant and (apparently) killed herself in the hotel. Nicole hasn’t been back since it happened, but the plan is to sell the property and offer a good amount of the profits to Rachel’s surviving family as a way of freeing herself from the past.
First-person exploration and narrative titles such as Rachel have been described as walking simulators. I’m not a fan of the term, but I can’t think of a game more closely fitting the phrase. Two borrowed gimmicks drive the experience here.
The first is that Nicole uses her cellphone to repeatedly call a FEMA agent who guides her through the hotel to necessary food, energy and entertainment. Their relationship develops from mistrustful to flirting. The second gimmick is the use of scares. During Nicole’s time at the hotel, the eerie atmosphere in dimly lit rooms and matching sound effects keep her (and the player) on their toes.
This feeling of impending horror is underscored by clues that leave the player speculating about Rachel, whose suicide is… questionable. As Nicole starts experiencing nightmares, things steer into darker storytelling and build towards a revelation.
The suspense created by this direction is the absolute highlight of Rachel. The player is aware of many questions relating to Rachel’s suicide, and I was feeling quite tense in several situations where I wasn’t sure what might be waiting for me behind the next door. It’s a shame, however, that the underwhelming visuals limit the fright — lighting effects are decent at best, and environmental props lack both detail and depth.
Apart from the unimpressive graphics, other shortcomings drag the experience down. For example, Nicole’s movement is spectacularly slow. As she explores the hotel, calling it a chore to get around is an understatement.
The hotel itself consists of three floors and a basement with multiple rooms, hallways and hidden staircases, but only a fraction of it is actually explorable or relevant. Many scattered items can be interacted with, but are useless — books don’t offer text or images, electronics don’t work, and most story items are single-use only.
Objective signposting isn’t great. There’s no clear map of the hotel, and the next goal is usually evident only from dialogue between Nicole and the FEMA agent. Not understanding what they meant or missing part of the dialogue for any reason results in endless searching, or even reloading a save to re-watch the scene.
After all was said and done, The Suicide of Rachel Foster remains an intriguing story exploration game with great suspense, and I felt that the conclusion justified the journey. However, despite being captivating at times, I did wish the truth revealed would’ve conveyed more of a message and less of a story.
Disclosures: The Suicide of Rachel Foster was developed by ONE-O-ONE GAMES and published by Daedalic Entertainment. It’s currently available for PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and played on PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The Suicide of Rachel Foster has no ESRB rating. The game touches on mature subject matter — blood is visible in multiple scenes. Violence is on display at times, and also implied. Scenarios can imply horror. The developers note that this is not a game for those struggling with personal issues, and I’d add that this is also not a kid’s game.
Colorblind modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are on by default, although they’re not resizable. Dialogue is the main tool to instruct the player, and all voiceovers are subtitled, but there’s little readable content.
Remappable Controls: There are no remappable controls.
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.