We covered Reaching for Petals not too long ago when the first couple of chapters were made available by Blue Entropy Studios. Even then, it impressed with its beautiful scenery and resounding narrative — a fact which hasn’t changed now that we’ve got our hands on the full version.
Reaching for Petals has had no discernible changes to the first two chapters, a fact that is understandable when faced with so little to improve. Instead we are treated to the final few areas of the journey, with glaring summer sun and vibrant greens replaced by the amber tones of autumn, golden hues fading into moonlit winter night. The presentation of these landscapes is at least as impressive as before, marrying light and shadow to the progression of the narrative and overall atmosphere.
There is an attention to detail in the scenery of this story that you could just about fail to notice in the first two chapters, but it becomes more obvious in the memory segments in between chapters, where you return to the memory of the house you shared with the mysterious woman in your life. You can tell that time passes between each visit not only by the narration, but by the items which clutter the home. They move from place to place through ordinary use, the workings of the home shown just by their presence.
The appearance of the river in the first area hasn’t been changed, but later areas have thin enough streams that the odd nature of their surface is less distracting. As before there are a few sections where you must interact with the terrain to pass over rivers or gaps, but each is reasonably intuitive.
A subtle new feature, perhaps so subtle that we didn’t notice it before, is blurring. Objects move out of focus if you get too close to them now and more importantly, you encounter a few moments throughout the journey where your own vision dims and narrows. With the faint sound of your heart beating in that moment, you’re left wondering at the meaning of it and it turns out to be a thread that ties the curious strands of the story together.
Unfortunately the narrator, while excellent, is still very quiet in some places, especially in the middle chapters. It’s doubtful that this is intentional — although the narrator’s voice rises and falls in-keeping with the music, there isn’t much point in him being so quiet that you strain to hear him. It would be useful to have adjustable music and narration options to combat this issue.
Don’t turn the volume too low, though. Music is integral to the enjoyment and meaning of Reaching for Petals, reaching ever more triumphant notes as you travel onward. Those dramatic beats strike just at the right moment, triggered by the scenery as you pass through it. It forms such a stunning accompaniment to the magical atmosphere near the end of the journey that it tugs at your heart, filling you with a sense of hope, achievement and the feeling that everything has come full-circle, to its conclusion. Quieter sections surround this, underlining the themes of loss, sadness and peace.
The story is told in two parts — a journey through the mind and a journey through memory. Given just enough detail to capture the feeling of that remembered event, the written memories don’t reveal much and the choices you make don’t have long-term consequences, but they add up seamlessly to the end result. That end result itself is a bittersweet symphony of emotions, completing the story and finalising the lessons and truths discovered along the way.
This isn’t a tale or a journey that can be easily summarised. Its morals can’t always be explained without encountering a personal viewpoint. Its full story can’t be told without taking away the magic of discovering it. What it is, though, is worth exploration from anyone who wants a meaningful experience in a game. Not everything the narrator says can be picked apart if you stop to make sense of it or think it through, but you don’t need to understand. It doesn’t need to make sense.
It just is.