October 3, 2023
Meet Finley, a junior doctor who is about to start his first day in health care. Fall of Porcupine, the Finger Guns review:

I was first intrigued by Fall of Porcupine a few months back, as the prologue is free to play on PlayStation and PC. I dived in. I’m not sure whether it was the Life is Strange vibes, the art style, or the episodic story-like attraction which piqued my interest. The demo has been available for everyone for a while now and I jumped in one Sunday afternoon with not much else on my plate. I was pleasantly surprised with what I had seen and ever since completing it, I have often checked up on its progress and release. I am pleased to say that Fall of Porcupine is finally here. 

In Fall of Porcupine you play as Finley, an anthropomorphic bird who is within his early days as a junior doctor of St. Ursula Hospital. Finley is new to the area and has already met a few pals, but whilst trying to locate a patient who had gotten lost in the basement, he ends up mysteriously being injured himself. 

A Junior Day

There are already a few subtle changes from the demo. Each day at work will require Finley to complete diagnostic and treatment services on patients on the ward. These services act as mini games, each being slightly different. From holding the right combinations of buttons down in a speedy time, to following rythym or completing colour puzzles, you can be graded on your speed and accuracy. These follow a slightly different layout and design than I remember. One of the games included an old school version of Mastermind; where you have to match the symbols in the correct place within a pattern. Similar to how Wordle works today. 

Some of the games work quite well, and they do progressively get harder as players continue through the story. The rhythm game speeds up, adding more button combinations, the needle game starts to shake a bit later on to impact your accuracy. The mini games were a variety and I didn’t have too many problems with them. There was one particular game where you have to hold a series of buttons down. I found the game not moving on despite it clearly showing me I was holding all the correct buttons down which ultimately kept impacting my grading. Similarly, one game around dumpster diving just straight up didnt work for me. It wouldn’t allow me to press any buttons causing my timer to run out completely.  Annoying, but not the end of the world

The grading system seemed a bit futile, I noticed that I couldnt do worse than a C grade, and this didn’t really impact the patient, to my knowledge in any way. Even my strict boss would still end up complimenting me for my hard work, whether I was to get mostly A or C grades, it felt as if it didn’t end up changing the dialogue or the character relationships in anyway, and it also won’t change the story. That feels a shame, and something that would have added much more depth to Fall of Porcupine. I think, having played the demo, this is something I had hoped and anticipated would happen. 

It does feel like some stuff should be a bit more RPG. A staff member basically hinted very strongly they didn’t have time to get supplies. I tried to get them and was unable to. Which is weird because it followed a conversation with someone telling me what the layout of the hospital was ect and where the supplies were. Why tell me that If I was completely unable to access that area of the game? It would have been cool to choose to make those choices or have a consequence for not getting them. 

Everyone Counts

Whilst it doesn’t rub it in your face, the Fall of Porcupine themes do dabble in showing a glimpse of the interpretation of the crisis of junior doctors: overworking, stress, and the healthcare system as we see it today. Although speaking hoenstly, I would rather be at St. Ursula’s than today’s hospitals, I say that as you roughly only see three patients a day and then get to go home – winner. The plot points touch upon issues related to stress, illness, death and self doubt. 

I did notice that in the later chapters of the game, you can have a slightly different experience on one or two of your evenings off depending on which colleague you choose to answer back, or make plans with.  Porcupine is a narrative adventure after all, there has to be some element of choice, even if minimal. 

There is one particular story that is done well, and evokes emotion even though I knew it was coming. The characters almost end up feeling lifelike, and this is something you can see the devs have poured alot of love into. Every character has their own feel to them, although there is no voice acting, it’s like playing a visual novel. With the dialogue and writing, you can almost hear the different voices each character would have and how their personality would sound. 

It felt, for the length of the game, you could have had a few more stories like the one aforementioned, but I can see how this may also replicate the revolving door frequency of patients that can visit and quickly leave hospitals. 

Visually, the game looks as if it is heavily inspired by Night In The Woods. The colours and the design are very wonderful and visually bring a very warm feel to the game as a 2D side scrolling adventure game. The area’s around the hospital, such as Finley’s house or the market place are all accessible by walking. There is a small ‘fast travel’ system, but only from your house to the hospital and back again. 

There are a few locations to explore, and sometimes characters will tell you to meet them there. I did get lost at one point and the game would have benefited from a small map to show which way to go sometimes. Side scrolling all the way back from somewhere because you took the wrong turning is a vibe killer. There were also places I walked past that were never touched, maybe that’s something if I were to choose the opposite choice on one of my days off, but it seemed a shame as the environment is sweet to wander around in. 

Infection Control

I unfortunately did encounter a few bugs on my way. As I have already mentioned there were minor hiccups with the games minigames. However, one bug that stopped me in my tracks for a few days was when the whole game translated itself into German, apart from the main and pause menus. This actually initially happened when I first launched the game, but a quick restart fixed this. When entering one of the new scenes, all of my dialogue was in German, and whilst I am all for a game that is translated into as many languages as it can be, the Duolingo owl would have a lot to say on my ability to speak and read German. I will say however, I did jump into the discord to make the developers aware of this and it was fixed a few days later. 

I never experneced any crashes, but on PC there was a constant screen tear when sidescrolling through any place. Mia, my best friend, also once got stuck on the environment and I had to back and get her and ‘trick’ her into walking through it. Minor things, but I do remember not having any problems on PlayStation. I can’t speak for the rest of the game on the console version, mind.

Overall, this is a lovely narrative game, despite the technical difficulties. The soundtrack is wonderful and brings me back to some of my most beloved games. The characters are engaging, and the visuals are sweet. In my opinion there were times where Fall of Porcupine became quite slow in pace and I do think that should this game have been shorter by an hour or two, this would have matched the pace. It almost felt like the introduction happens and youre intrigued and then a bunch of nothing happens for a while, then a little plot point, then more nothing and then a crescendo of a big plot point with a very sudden ending. I was left wanting more of what I knew and anticipated with the demo.

However, for someone wanting a story game that they can easily follow with a few minigames and minor exploration. This is your hybrid visual novel for 2023.

Fall of Porcupine is a 2D sidescrolling narrative game that touches upon the reality of healthcare as we see it today. Fall of Porcupine does feel like it unnecessarily worked overtime on the length but was still a joy to play. A wonderful soundtrack and characters with depth. Visually appealing despite screen tear and other technical difficulties.

Fall of Porcupine is available now for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One, and PC via Steam.

Developer: Critical Rabbit
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.

Make sure to follow Finger Guns on our social channels. TwitterFacebook, TwitchSpotify or Apple Podcasts – to keep up to date on our news, reviews and features

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.