You know there is going to be trouble when you find a group of teenagers heading off to camp. Whether it be in film, written work, or games, terrible trouble will always lay ahead; usually involving blood, ghosts, secret revelations and hidden crushes. But that is where Re:Turn – One Way Trip starts – a group of teenagers camping in the woods. And yep, very soon things start to go extremely wrong as the kids find themselves getting lost, with scary results. Are you ready to take a one way trip… to hell?!
Re:Turn – One Way Trip is, in essence, a 2D side-scrolling puzzle adventure horror game. It’s reminded me of games from the past, stuff that I would have played long ago on the PS1. I’m not saying that in a bad way though, because the more you play, the more Re:Turn sinks its horror claws into you.
The game’s story is a good one, playing out like an old-fashioned ghost story or something you might find while channel surfing late at night. The aforementioned teenagers have just graduated, and for fun start to tell each other some home truths about their relationships. But soon they are separated and, slap bang in the middle of the night, Saki (who you control) ends up on her own in an abandoned train wreck, consisting of a dining car, some cabins, and a viewing area. As she explores the area looking for her friends, mysterious earthquakes shake the ground, and she falls fainting into darkness.
When she wakes, she is on the train, but this time in the past. No one can see or hear her and you fast realise that she is a ghost. It’s up to Saki to solve the riddles of this ancient train, working between the past and the present to find her friends. You don’t get to choose what time period to go in; the game just puts you there as part of the linear narrative. The story is the main strength of Re:Turn and it tells a good yarn, something that will fully immerse you from the beginning to the end. The characters you meet along the way are well-developed, engaging with their backstories and relationships. You’ll want to listen to them. The ghostly sections are good as well with some quite unexpected shocks and twists popping up along the way. The time shifts are effective and compelling with some unusual integrations between the two eras, especially in regards to objects and puzzles being found and solved in the past that affect the present.
Gameplay-wise it’s very old-fashioned in regards to what you have to do. The main elements see it working along exploration lines, with a very basic point and click dynamic; you will get to an area where you might need to collect an item to use with a person or object to progress. There are no pointers or quest icons to help though, and instead you are left to pick up hints from the characters around you, as that teases what you might need to do next. This works well, and through my time with Re:Turn I was never left stumped. However, there is a lot of tracking back and forth, and that in itself can become annoying. Strangely, the development team make a decision to introduce a run button later on down the line, allowing you to deal with an added chase section two-thirds of the way in. Having that option earlier in play would have helped my patience from being on the verge of boiling over in the first half of the game.
Re:Turn – One Way Trip also deals with multiple puzzle elements – little mini-games and mind teasers. One example which stands out is the need to open a locked container by utilising a “ball maze” game as you direct a ball through a twisty path to the exit. In another section, you need to play notes on a piano in the correct order to unlock a clue inside, having to search the train carriage prior to this for the melody and hidden notes. There are many innovative and entertaining puzzles to solve through Re:Turn and it is something that will possibly ensure your brain is worked out to the max. Thankfully it is enjoyable throughout, delivered like a weird mix of a LucasArts game from the ’90s and an Artifex Mundi experience of more recent times.
Visually and it must be said that Re:Turn – One Way Trip harks back to the PS1 or even the Gameboy Color era, and whether you like that style or not will determine your enjoyment of the game. I was surprised to how enjoyable it was to look at though, and found the art style relaxing to play with. And that’s coming from someone who is not a huge fan of retro visuals. I especially like the way the characters are drawn in the comic book-esque still cutscenes that happen often. However, it’s hard to be truly scared through these visuals, and ghosts appearing in pixel form don’t really send the shivers down my spine.
The audio is good though and encourages you to play Re:Turn with headphones on. It has some nicely creepy effects, like footsteps or screams, and it is all well set up by some atmospheric music. That in itself goes beautifully with the tension and the action on the screen.
I wasn’t sure whether Re:Turn – One Way Trip on Xbox One was going to be for me, but as the tale progresses, it begins to get you hooked. The story is a good one, the twists and turns are surprising, and the change between the past and present is very effective in its concept. The gameplay is very old-school though, and the tracking back is irritating at times, while a chase section in the latter moments is not really needed. Overall though, taking into account the price and the 4 to 5-hour running time, it delivers a decent piece of old-style adventure gaming. If you take one thing from it though – just don’t go camping in the woods. Ever.