All the Delicate Duplicates falls firmly into the category of games that I would define as more of an experience then a game. It sets out to thrust you head first into a world of eerie and unsettling wonder, it makes no effort to tell you the story nor does it hold your hand as you wander wide eyed through its narrative. With that said in my several runs of the game I never felt frustratingly lost or annoyed at this lack of guidance. The whole way through this sense of being lost and confused simply spurred me on to push into the next twisted reality or back track into the path of the wondering white queen that patrols one of the time frames that you can flit between.
Visually the game is breathtaking. Handwritten scrawls of text float lazily around levels or fade into existence as you explore the hidden corners of each area. Those familiar with The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Dear Esther will find themselves feeling at home in this kind of game. That is until the gnarled and twisting limbs of trees begin jutting into the landscape. Or until the world itself seems ablaze with otherworldly flickering light. Then the game takes on a style of its own that is truly a marvel to behold.
The game itself is comparatively simple. Any fans of Amnesia, Outlast or other similar games will be familiar with the left click to interact, right click to zoom, move mouse to rotate and WASD to move. Standard controls aside one of the main mechanics of the game comes from switching between time periods. Pressing the T button will cause you to flit forward as you witness the gradual decent into insanity of both the house and it’s occupants. Often advancing the story requires you to revisit these windows of time several times after triggering an event in a previous window. This only serves to add to the feeling of enraptured bewilderment, having to deal with a story winding through different periods of time really lifts you from reality allowing you to sink into the mind bending world of this game.
This does also lead to one of my very few issues with this game. Triggering one of these time jumps isn’t a smooth affair. It would have been amazing to have the world explode into colour around you or the world crumple in on itself as you move forward. As it is triggering this effect simply presents you with a black screen, which honestly when considering the beautiful presentation the game really surprised me. Every corner of the world is littered with hidden messages or eerie effects, yet this main feature suddenly pulls you out of this simply beautiful immersive world then reminds you that you’re sitting at a keyboard playing a game. Still, in terms of criticism it’s a minor detail regardless of how frustrating it is.
My other main issue with the game is its length. Now.. Just hold on. Yes, if you have already played the game or seen someone else play it I appreciate that like many games of its kind much of the replay value is in the hidden details, of unravelling more of the secrets that are hidden in every inch of this game. Yes, you would be correct in the statement, I myself spent half an hour or so typing Dos commands into a stray laptop in the game in the hopes of revealing one of the dozens of secrets that I am very sure this game holds but the main story if you just bumble casually through it is around an hour tops. Upon finishing the main story you unlock Mo’s universe which allows you to explore the game’s overworld in a more freeform manner, letting you combine and experiment to unlock yet more of the hidden clues in this world. Which so far hasn’t revealed much. Even as I sit here writing I have it open in the background and am sitting here throwing objects into each other and frantically muttering to myself about what these bizarre snippets of text mean. “and I feel to be slipping out of my chair”...What does the even mean?!
Regardless, All The Delicate Duplicates offers the kind of intrigue and immersion that so many of this genre of game strive for yet sadly fall short in. The game walks the fine line between confusing the player and infuriating the player. Offering a story that will grip you and make you want to keep sifting through the myriad of details hidden in every corner of the world while leaving you utterly confused as to what on earth is happening. This is the main reason as to why throughout this review I have elected to skirt around mentions of the main story and any details about the characters within. This game should be played blind. You should step in with no idea what you are doing and earn every snippet of detail from there on in. The story deserves that much at the very least.
All The Delicate Duplicates is a game I expect to have the internet at large scratching their respective heads for many weeks to come. Game Theorists, horror youtubers and standard gamers alike will set out into this world and be amazed at what they find. Plus with the promise of VR come late 2017 those who are lucky enough to own one will find themselves dragged even further into the stunning world of All The Delicate Duplicates.