Virginia (PS4 Review)
Virginia, from Variable State, is a cinematic game that uses the viewer’s intelligence against them. You’ll have noticed I have used game and viewer in the same sentence, and as paradoxical as it sounds it is the only way to describe your role – or lack thereof. Playing your intelligence against you allows for Virginia to be interpreted differently, so by all means ridicule my review, but you can’t change what I experienced. Variable State took inspiration from 90’s Television, such as X-Files and Twin Peaks, and showed their dedication, through telling a story of the unexplainable and absurd.
Starting Virginia will prompt you to take a trip, providing the main menu where you can play the feature or choose a chapter. Further settling itself into its rightful place in the cinematic column. Virginia sees your character, a newly graduated FBI agent, take on their first case of a missing child in the rural town of Kingdom, Virginia (you have heard that name before, don’t worry). The town is filled with a motley crew of colourful characters, and shows off just how interesting every rural town probably is if you dig deep enough. It truly is the “trip” promised earlier.
There’s not too much interaction involved. You will hit your interact button every time your dot becomes a square outline and you’ll perform some sort of action; applying Lipstick, shaking someone’s hand, picking a lock, and picking up flowers all with a simple button push. This will be your only involvement in the game. You are not tasked with puzzles or questions, but to purely bare witness and make your own judgements.
Virginia is a beautiful game, offering a simple yet elegant look. Solid colours and shading are used strengthen the facial features of the characters. This is key to Virginia, as there is not a single word spoken. The colour red is prevalent throughout, if you couldn’t tell from the load screen, and is the most important rule for you to remember. Trust the red, love the red, it knows more than you.
The major flaws I had with Virginia are the location hopping, clunky controls, and it being an amazingly short story that is told so well and is somewhat spoiled by the final act. The location hopping is used to show that you still have somewhat of a purpose to the progress of the story. However, as you walk to certain locations it will jump to the next building or location. It is a bit disorienting and messes with your head, this may be the point as they are trying to convey the loss of memory/time that is felt by your character.
Just like the disconcerting jumps, Virginia also suffers from clunky controls This wouldn’t be as big an issue if you didn’t have to do absolutely everything for your character, including doing your lipstick… twice! Having your character right next to their objective and trying to get the dot to stop perfectly on it is a test in itself. Ultimately your character doesn’t truly impact the outcome of this story. Virginia has a story it wants to tell, it tells it well, and you just so happen to have a first person perspective. My issues seem to dwell within the core concept of the feature. To tell an absurd story for you to enjoy. However, I feel that it is told in a way where it seems completely explainable until the final act, where everything concludes in a sense, but doesn’t leave you satisfied.
Virginia is extremely well made and a sight for you to behold, a well-developed drama that should be experienced by all. There are issues I found with it, but outside of the controls I can see why they were used. Although, they are still not to my taste as I felt they detract from the overall story. The only real question I was left asking was ‘Why am I picking flowers?