Virginia by Variable State harks back to the great mystery TV shows of the late 80's, early 90's with just a pinch of the atmosphere from Silence of The Lambs.
Through the eyes of Anne Tarver, a recently-graduated FBI agent, you bear witness to the ongoing case of a missing teenage boy in a small Virginian town called Kingdom with your new partner, an experienced female Agent with a hidden past - a past you have been directed to investigate in secret.
The game starts innocently enough with the prompt 'Press X to take a trip'. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of Twin Peaks
or The X-Files
should know with that kind of forewarning to buckle their seat belts because things are about to get strange - and it doesn't disappoint.
is told through a series of vignettes. There are few choices to be made and most of them you won't really notice because the tension draws you forward and pushes you to conclusions about the cast of characters that may, or may not, be misleading.
It manages to do this without one line of dialogue. Every action and emotion is clearly emoted through clever art direction and clear animations. The graphics are deceptively simple with flat textures and low polygon models. In many other games this would be deemed a low quality solution, but here it allows the game to shine and be clear and clean. The clutter of a life in turmoil is easily read and understood when you don't have search through the murk of what most people consider a high graphical standard.
If you need an example to sell you on the art direction of Virginia
then just look to The Witness
for what can be done with minimal art assets and a good lighting engine.
Tying the individual vignettes together is an excellent soundtrack performed by the Polish Philharmonic Orchestra. It provides the mood and sets both the tension and the pace, further drawing you in to this world where everyone is a suspect and even your own perspective cannot be truly trusted.
You play the game from a first-person perspective and (as far as I'm aware) there is no run button, so you are limited to the walking pace o Anne Tarver. Finding interactive objects is a simple case of pointing of the cursor. It will change shape when held over something you can look at or use and change shape again when you are in range, then with a simple press of the X button (On PS4) you'll use the item, open the door or perform any number of other interactions.
There is the question of duration and the answer is that Virginia
is a short experience, especially if you just play it through once. My first play-through was done in one sitting and lasted around three hours and at the time of writing we don't know what the asking price is so this could be a problem for some prospective players. (Editor's note - it's £7.99.
Depending on the final price point and your feelings towards narrative-driven, minimalist games I highly recommend Virginia
. It will appeal to fans of Twin Peaks
and The X-Files
as well as fans of Clarice Starling from Silence of The Lambs
. Personally I am looking forward to the Trophy list going live so I can figure out what I missed.
+ A well crafted and cleverly told story
+ Beautiful, minimalist art direction
+ A Soundtrack to die for
- It is a bit too short
- Minor performance issues in a few locations.
SPOnG Score: 8/10