Re:Turn – One Way Trip from Red Ego Games, a small but diverse indie team, is a side-scrolling puzzle-adventure game with strong horror vibes. The best way to describe it would be a point-and-click adventure paired with more active 2D gameplay. While I enjoyed the slowly unravelling story and escalating horror elements, the game designs its puzzles in such a way that the player is forced to backtrack repeatedly through the same environment. As a result, I got frustrated with the gameplay loop long before I got to the end of the story.
Re:Turn – One Way Trip puts you in control of Saki (most of the time) as her small group of friends camp in the woods to celebrate the end of formal schooling. As in any good horror story, this is a recipe for disaster and, after a brief prologue that introduces your companions and their personalities, they disappear leaving Saki alone aboard a century-old train wreck. From this point, the frequent story beats – broken up into discrete chapters – kept me hooked, thanks to the well-paced opening hours and writing (which is not voiced, if that bothers you).
It goes without saying, small dark-haired Japanese girls should not to be trusted in any horror game. Thankfully, the rest of the story and cast feel more complex and fleshed out.
Given the gameplay limitations I’ll discuss below, Re:Turn – One Way Trip is a game you’ll appreciate most for the narrative and characters. Despite the supernatural horror elements, this is very much a game about a group of youngsters dealing with the implication of leaving school and drifting apart. They’re a diverse and fractious group, with their apparent loyalties to one another crumbling as soon as they’re placed under pressure (an unfortunately accurate representation of too many childhood friendships).
Once you start experiencing flashbacks to the past – leading up to the train crash – you’ll realise the escalating drama between the passengers covers everything from family loyalty, to classism, to workplace pressures, adultery, and unplanned pregnancies. Some of these are presented in a simplistic manner and many twists are obvious, but it hooked me far more than your typical revenge-focussed haunting tale.
Puzzles, for the most part, remain logical. That said, the get uncomfortably weird at times.
Unfortunately, gameplay is where Re:Turn – One Way Trip initially shines, but then begins to grate. As a 2D side-scroller, you’ll be walking back and forth, entering several side rooms, investigating objects and picking up items, then using items on objects to solve puzzles. Sometimes you’ll need to read a note or study a picture to solve a puzzle, but most of them are logical and the dialogue will direct you to the right area. There were a few times I had to take the brute-force approach, but each chapter only has 3-4 puzzles, so I never found myself stuck for long. The problem lies in how these puzzles are tied to the story beats, and how the game is unwilling to let you even examine certain objects until it decides you can.
As a result, every time you move to a new chapter, you’ll find yourself searching the same few corridors and side rooms repeatedly. This might make sense for single-solution puzzles in the different time periods, but several puzzles require multiple steps or force multiple attempts with different objects. As an example, I spotted the obvious solution to a late-game puzzle, yet I could not interact with the object until I had tried several failed solutions. As the environment is a string of linear train carriages, you’ll find yourself forced to slog back and forth dozens of times over the 6ish hour runtime, and no amount of companion banter or creepy events along the way can offset the tedium.
The traditional horror elements crop up mostly in the final chapters and there are only a handful of times the 2D-control scheme feels necessary (think rare chases and infrequent button-mashing events).
Re:Turn – One Way Trip tries to keep thing fresh by slowly altering the environment as the haunting progresses, particularly the present-day train wreck the becomes increasingly dilapidated and terrifying – at least within the limits of the vibrant but generic pixel-art style. The atmospheric soundtrack, while typical understated, ramps up to great effect to unsettle the player or emphasise frights. However, stylish presentation can’t hide the fact the developers are getting a lot of mileage out of a tiny environment. Re-treading the same space is something the Resident Evil games have done to great effect, but the simple 2D structure of environments in Re:Turn – One Way Trip, coupled with frequency of forced back-tracking, don’t achieve the same effect.
Ultimately, Re:Turn – One Way Trip has a great story to tell but is burdened by a gameplay loop that grows stale long before the end. It starts strong, jumping between time periods as you slowly piece together the events that led to the haunting, but the environment is far too limited to remain compelling. The forced-backtracking only reinforces this sensation. Given there are only a handful of brief chase sequences that make use of the player-driven control scheme, I almost feel Re:Turn – One Way Trip would have functioned better as a point-and-click adventure that didn’t waste the player’s time. If you’re after an engrossing narrative, and can stomach the constant back-and-forth required for puzzle-solving, Re:Turn – One Way Trip does provide a fresh take on the classic haunting narrative.
Re:Turn – One Way Trip is developed by Red Ego Games and published by Green Man Gaming
Re:Turn – One Way Trip is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
This review is based on the PC version of the game
Written by Andrew Logue
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Re:Turn – One Way Trip
Re:Turn – One Way Trip tells the terrifying story of five college friends on a post-graduation vacation. This might be their last trip together before the adulthood swallows them whole. Unfortunately for them, a far more sinister force has found them and hungers for their souls.
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