When I reflect on it, She Remembered Caterpillars is a conundrum. At first glance, this color-matching platform puzzler seemed competently made, in a charming and home-spun way, but traditionally familiar in its linear approach. As I dug through the levels, however, I discovered that Jumpsuit Entertainment had tried to blend a dichotomy, by mixing clinical logic with a subtle demonstration of emotionally aware storytelling, which resonated in discomforting, yet compelling ways. Read on for our She Remembered Caterpillars review.
A dark tale, with greeting card sentiments
Presented in a heart-warming and hand-drawn style, with brightly-colored creatures that you gradually guide around puzzles, Caterpillars has a disarmingly child-like appearance. A lush jungle climbs out of a dark lake, with shafts of light highlighting the mist-strewn scenery below. As a backdrop, it reminds me of greetings cards from trendy stationery shops, where smiling characters whisper motivational slogans. It’s all very innocent, at least for a while.
Oh, and you can merge gammies together, with the new creature inheriting the properties of both.
The concept for each level is simple enough. Each creature – known as a gammie, must be navigated to a white pad. They can only cross over caterpillar bridges of the same color, or through arches of an opposing color. Oh, and you can merge gammies together, with the new creature inheriting the properties of both. Sounds simple, right?
However, times change. Alongside the increasingly complex puzzles, we’re introduced to a story about a young daughter and her father. What starts as a young mind exploring her parents’ garden suddenly shifts to a disconnected family, where the web of relationships has thinned to a single thread holding the two together. Likewise, the jungle fades into more serious architecture, as if to provide the mind with something firm to brace on.
Then Caterpillars pulls on that thread, and hard. Calamity strikes the father – not in an immediate way, but in that slow, unstoppable and relentless degeneration that gradually robs us of those we love. The daughter, having grown used to her parents always being there, refuses to accept the offered prognosis and, as a talented biochemist, is driven into pursuing a cure.
It’s at this point that I had to stop playing, the tale cutting a little too close to home for me.
Carefully, however, Jumpsuit doesn’t spin the story on a dime, only gradually revealing the inevitability of the situation and the toll it exerts. It’s at this point that I had to stop playing, the tale cutting a little too close to home for me.
You see, about a year ago I lost an uncle to a rapidly growing brain tumor. He was an amazing chap, full of wisdom-tempered charisma, as if he embodied the best parts of Gandalf and Dr. Emmet Brown. His loss took a toll on my family, as we cared for a brilliant being that slowly weakened and withdrew before departing. I have never known a man more loved and cherished, and I still miss his witty one-liners and crooked half-smile.
As I continued to play through Caterpillars, I was reminded of my uncle at various stages of his illness. Glimmers of events, that played through the mind like hazy screenshots. And with grief comes the guilt of being grief-stricken. A year has passed and you should be over it by now. He was only an uncle, not a parent or sibling. It’s only pixels on a screen, just fortify yourself and power through. It pulls you apart, between that British stiff-upper-lip encouraging you to push it down, and exposing that grief and pain to cathartic light.
A deeply moving puzzle game
Part of why Caterpillars succeeds is because the story is only told in snippets at the beginning of each level, or during an interval between one of the eight Acts. Much like Firewatch only shares brief conversations over CB radio, we only read moments in the daughter’s life. It’s left for us to fill in the blanks with whatever memories and experiences we have, in a way that varies from player to player. How much it resonates will depend on you as a player and person as much as the game.
Puzzle fans will be delighted by the challenges it contains, but there’s a wider experience here that deserves to be discovered.
There are other metaphors to be found in the ‘fungipunk’ artistic design, like the symbolism between the Gammie-strewn puzzles and the daughter’s desperation to solve her own biochemical challenges. As the background art changes towards the technical and esoteric, I’m wondering if we’re playing through the stress-dreams that manifest in her own subconscious.
She Remembered Caterpillars Review
But, pushing all that aside, Caterpillars is a well-built, challenging and endearing puzzler, introducing new concepts regularly but gradually to make it approachable but constantly interesting. The accompanying music can get a little annoying at times, but for the most part provides a relaxing melody to help keep frustration levels low. And, while the puzzles themselves can vary in length, there’s certainly enough of them to feel satisfied.
Ultimately though, She Remembered Caterpillars manages the blend of logic and emotion with care, resulting in this chimera of a game that makes you feel as much as you think. Puzzle fans will be delighted by the challenges it contains, but there’s a wider experience here that deserves to be discovered.