Get ready to open the door to a platforming narrative adventure known as ‘To Leave‘. Originally released on the PS4 back in May, the game has just been released onto Steam so that more people will get the chance to dive into this emotional and hardcore platformer.
Now, this is a story all about how my life… You know the rest.
From the start, the game informs us that it will have a narrative which will touch on topics of mental health and possibly leaving us with more questions than answers. Harm has a diary which he writes in between chapters, reading the pages will slowly unravel the game’s story as you progress throughout To Leave. There are current entries as well as past ones which really begin to flesh out his character with all of his emotions.
The brilliantly hand-drawn cutscenes offer us a more in-depth look at Harm and how he’s feeling. The beginning sequence alone was amazing to watch and fans of old hand-drawn cartoons will thoroughly enjoy each and every cutscene from here onwards. The levels are also presented in an attractive, well-drawn style, even if the scenery is sometimes rather desolate. Harm isn’t voiced throughout To Leave, but through the artwork and animation, it all speaks for itself.
Going over to the magical door in Harm’s room, we begin the platforming segments of the game. At first, our adventure begins nice and simple as we run over to an altar and activate the temples in order to harvest the souls. A new element and chief gameplay mechanic then gets introduced with us being able to hang onto the door and fly. Whilst flying, you progress through stages and go through door portals through to the next area, with the goal being to reach the temple altar at the end.
The catch to each level, and flying around, is that there is a power gauge that depletes over time. However, collecting green orbs will increase the gauge back up. When it’s near depleted, you’ll begin to slow down until you eventually die. Once this happens, you’re taken back to your room and you have to restart that particular chapter again, from the beginning. There is no combat that takes place nor is there a permadeath mechanic, so that’s good because you are gonna die. A lot.
Once you gain access to the magical flying door, the difficulty of To Leave starts increasing quite rapidly. While hovering and flying on the door, you’ll need to fly through obstacles as you make your way to the temple altar. Touching blue squares records a checkpoint whilst purple squares are portals to the next area. There are a lot of things that will cause interference and act as hazards. By merely touching anything, you will get sent back to the last blue square you were in contact with.
What makes the game so hard is that one simple touch can kill you. The flying and hovering can be very touchy and trying to avoid the floor will sometimes result in hitting the ceiling! At first, the challenge of progression is a minor frustration but by the time you reach the last few chapters, To Leave feels like it’s purposely wanting you to really feel the struggles of Harm. For example, you may try to get through a slim passageway and keep hitting the walls until you finally make it, yet you’ll no longer have anything left in your power gauge which will result in starting all the way back at the beginning. It’s very frustrating having just got through a hard area, just to run out of energy and then have to repeat it all over again. While it may not seem hard at first, just wait. You’ll soon be frequently dying.
The beginning levels of To Leave are very short, leaving me surprised that I managed to beat them in less than 2 minutes each. Later chapters require more time but that’s due to the fact you’ll be dying a lot and having to restart the chapter all over again. The silver lining is that there aren’t a large number of chapters in the game, so overcoming the difficult levels feels great. It’s similar to beating a complicated boss which you’ve struggled with for a while.
Despite the depressing themes in the game, I really wanted Harm to dance at the completion of a chapter as I did in my living room.
One thing to note for people going for the trophies, To Leave has a small trophy list of silvers, golds, and a platinum. I’m unsure if I encountered a glitch whilst playing through the game as I obtained the ‘Old Journals’ trophy near the beginning of the game and nothing else unlocked since. A trophy is presented for chapter completions as well as meeting the Reaper, but nothing happened on my account (On PS4).
To Leave is a very hard game and it’s no joke when the beginning message even tells you so. Normally I’d just scoff at that kind of comment, but they really meant that the player would be put through some wild tests of perseverance. There’s lots of depth and a great story within the narrative, but ultimately, only those with the patience will make it to the end. Perhaps that’s what the game is truly about?
In a game that’s left up to the player, one could say the game is telling you that things in life are hard but you have to keep pushing through, in a subliminal type of way. If you are wanting a challenge, To Leave will definitely deliver.