If you see a very tall, very thin man, in a sharp suit it is always going to spell trouble.
Think about the Slenderman and his stalking ways, or the creepy guy who is in control of time and everything bad in Half Life 2. In Pinstripe, the rule is no different – we’ve got a very thin creepy man in a pinstripe suit who is basically the angel of death incarnate, bad omen bringer and all things very bad. So grab your nerves of steel and come with me to a very strange land, and one of the first truly original games of 2018.
There are not many games that have a smorgasbord of loads of different games and films placed into one. I feel like Pinstripe has a bit of Limbo, a bit of Flappy Bird, a bit of ‘spot the difference’ and a whole heap of Tim Burton.
You play as an ex-minister called Teddy, who has a daughter, Bo. But they are in trouble. At the start of the game, you find yourself on a train journey with your pet dog, gathering enough info early on to discover that there is a mother involved in this family unit. But she’s not here. Is she dead? Has she left them? But as you move down the carriages you come upon the mysterious Mr Pinstripe who has a passion for black balloons. He tells Ted that he is going to take his daughter away and she is going to call him father. That is exactly what he does, as the world of the unreal starts to descend and it’s up to you to venture out into Mr Pinstripe’s land to rescue your daughter.
Pinstripe plays like a normal 2D platformer, sending you left and right across the screen. You initially have a jump button and then a bit later access to a catapult that can destroy enemies or open pathways through the levels. The big difference between this and a normal platformer though is in the open world element to the gameplay.
You have access to lots of different levels, but certain areas and doorways will not be available to you – at least not until you complete a number of tasks or have enough snowdrops (that’ll be the cash) to carry on through. This gives Pinstripe a sort of point and click adventure feel to it and that works very well indeed. There are secrets to be found and items to buy – ones that will need multiple playthroughs to achieve – like an actual pinstripe suite for Ted, a dog coat or a Tommy gun.
The tone and game design found within Pinstripe is superb with a really interesting mix of things to do. I loved the ‘spot the difference’ sections and the adventure moments that task you with ‘get this item, look for the clue and solve the puzzle’. The combat elements are less satisfying; awkward and annoying at times, especially in the skill games and the boss battle at the end.
But this is one game that is all about the world, the clever innovative design and the nice little story and characters that you meet along the way. In that regards, Pinstripe does a brilliant job with its strange, offbeat, beautiful creations that I would happily revisit again and again. The game is quite a short one though – you’ll be done in a couple of hours – and I do feel that I could have happily stayed involved for a bit longer. Maybe that says a lot about the allure of Pinstripe though. There is a lot of replay value in secret gathering and a special mode to complete when you’ve played through once.
In the visual department, the game excels in creating a stunning dark fairytale that has popped straight out of a children’s book. The colours, art style and unique atmosphere it creates is a wonder to the eye and the character creations are fantastically drawn and realised. Sound wise and Pinstripe is even more of a delight with a soulful soundtrack that mixes a stunning original score, with some delightful vintage record tracks like “By the light of the silvery moon” that somehow the developers have made terrifying. The voice over work is excellent too, with a brilliant range of accents and actors. A big shout-out must go to the voice actors of Mr Pinstripe and Bo, the little girl.
Overall and Pinstripe is presented with a delightful, frightening piece of genius. Dark, funny and with a lovely optimistic ending, I would happily spend more hours in this place and with these characters. There are some elements of the gameplay that lets it down and the whole experience is a tad short, but if you’re a fan of story, tone and original gaming then I would plead for you to enter the world of Pinstripe. You won’t regret it.