A Fold Apart
Lightning Rod Games
As someone who was until very recently in a long-term, long-distance relationship (we are now living together), A Fold Apart hit pretty close to home. The puzzle-platformer is a short, two- or three-hour story showcasing the feelings of two lovers – The Teacher and The Architect – as they try to navigate being separated by work over the course of about a year and a half. Each level follows one of the two characters’ internal dialogue while they wrestle with their feelings about the long-distance aspect of their relationship, usually brought on by a poorly-worded text from their significant other.
The gameplay in A Fold Apart is pretty solid, but it’s not the main thing that enamored me with the game. Levels take place on sheets of paper that can be flipped over, folded, and rotated to create a path to the goal for the character you currently control. The mechanics available to the player are strong in their simplicity, and most of the puzzles are a perfect balance of difficulty that lets you move the story along at a good pace while still giving that satisfying “aha!” moment when you solve one.
Even so, the game doesn’t run very long, so the main draw of it is the story. Before starting the game I knew it was a love story, and while it looked cute I wasn’t especially excited. Once I launched it up and hit “New Game” though, that quickly changed because you can choose to make both of the protagonists either a man or a woman – leading to four possible couples you can play as. As a lesbian myself it felt great to see this small gesture and to feel represented, and I, of course, picked the option that was two women.
As a result, the entire rest of the game felt much more relatable and charming, even if I know intellectually that it made no actual difference to the dialogue or emotions of the characters. I mentioned previously that my girlfriend and I were long-distance until very recently, and as such the text banter between the two protagonists really clicked for me. The game isn’t all charm, though, and the main conflict of the story revolves around effective and sensitive explorations of the sorts of doubts and insecurities with which I grew all too familiar over the last three and a half years. When I didn’t have a big grin plastered across my face it was because my heartstrings were being tugged at, and what’s even better is that tonal difference never felt jarring.
Oddly enough there was one issue I found while playing, which was that I occasionally noticed some framerate drops. While it doesn’t render the game unplayable by any means, both because the drops are very slight and because no part of the game ever requires any sort of quick reaction or whatever, it was still strange because the graphics don’t seem all that intensive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice looking game and the papercraft style of it adds yet another layer of charm to an already lovely title, but it doesn’t exactly have the highest-end graphics.
These days more and more games are trying to be short, emotional meditations, and while that’s an excellent thing to aspire to I find that many of them end up falling somewhat flat for me. At the risk of sounding cynical, you can only play so many dreamlike allegories for grief or dying before they start to run together a little bit and lose their impact, and now only the best of them end up leaving a strong impression. I am happy to report that A Fold Apart is one of those games, both because of the skill of the writers and because of the subject matter is one that is surprisingly underexplored by games in this general vein. If you yourself are currently separated from your loved ones (whether because of the pandemic or just because you’ve been long distance for a while) or even if you just want a sweet little love story with some relaxing puzzles thrown in, A Fold Apart is a strong choice.
A Fold Aprt
A Fold Apart is short but very, very sweet.