Pinstripe is a beautiful game with a gripping story. It plunges the player into the shoes of Teddy, an ex-minister trekking his way through the frozen landscape of Hell in search of his daughter.
Perhaps the standout accomplishment for this game is that the harrowing music, the haunting art design, the coding—everything but the voice acting—were done by developer Thomas Brush himself.
Over five years, the one-man team has created this story of a man facing his demons to rescue his daughter and uncover secrets of his past. It may sound like a cliché premise when put like that, but this game holds up well and presents a beautiful, enchanting tale with lovable characters and just enough bread-crumb clues to keep the player anxiously moving forward.
The game sets out on a train with Teddy and his daughter, Bo. After some brief exploration, Bo is taken and Teddy is plunged into a frozen version of Hell where the occupants are kept docile and dependent on Sacks (balloons filled with a substance I’m still not sure it ever explains.) With the help of a few inhabitants and a talking dog, Georgie, slingshot-wielding Teddy is off to save his daughter and face the fiendish Mr. Pinstripe.
From the boisterous Bo to the depressed Mr. Dicky, the talking dog Georgie to Mr. Pinstripe himself, the voice cast delivers crisp, memorable dialogue leaving little left to be desired from characters in a game of this length and genre.
Dialogue options are available for some interchanges, but there are never more than two options. On replay, I noted the second options rarely changed the dialogue itself, just the cut-off point of the conversation. It basically progresses as an unchanging story with the option of a few more lines here or there.
I’m usually apprehensive when it comes to child voice actors and dialogue, they seem to miss the mark for me often. This absolutely was not the case for Bo. Within the first minute of gameplay I’d already fallen for the character. It’s a tall order for a game as short as this to make the characters lovable and give them deep personalities. Brush does an incredible job with each of his characters. The story is well-written and driving, even if some of the jokes fell a little flat for me. Can’t win them all.
The gameplay is straightforward and is controller-compatible if so desired. I found it easy to grasp. The jumping looks clumsy but it never felt that way. I was left satisfied with the physical mechanics of the game, and only one jumping puzzle ever left me grateful there was no fall damage.
The puzzles were a definite highlight for me. They were simple enough that I never had to spend more than five minutes on any one, yet they were complex enough that I got that nice, smug “aha!” feeling whenever I solved them. No need to Google my way out of any puzzle (not saying that isn’t an option, though.)
There was a good bit of combat in the game, but it never felt out of place. The slingshot is the main tool for interaction and combat works in the same way—just point-and-click shooting.
The game was smooth. I never had rendering problems or dropped framerates. I only encountered two bugs, one was small—my slingshot stopped firing and I had to exit out of the game to fix it. The second bug could be considered game-breaking: On my second play-through the game would freeze for me whenever I tried to acquire a certain item crucial to advancing. I had to reset my game save data to get past it. To me that wasn’t a huge deal. There isn’t much to lose by way of progression.
The game is very short. I finished my first run through (with my collect-everything/clear-everything mindset) in just under three hours. There is even an achievement to complete the game in under an hour. It leads right into a replay, offering a few goodies and access to a couple new rooms. All oil drops (the game’s currency) carry over after a play-through allowing the player to purchase cosmetics or a slingshot upgrade.
As it is a quick game, it’s worth a replay or two. There are small Easter eggs to spot on subsequent run-throughs that are unavailable the first time around.
There are hidden "film strips" the player can collect to unlock a vintage mode. I'm eager to play through that as well, but the bug mentioned above killed my progress toward unlocking it.
What Can It Do Better?
My biggest concern overall was that the game artificially padded its runtime with mandatory backtracking. I normally backtrack every area at least once to make sure I snagged all the goodies, but there were a few areas it had me backtrack 2-3 times. It wasn’t a huge deal. When the game looks as nice as this, it’s ok to backtrack and enjoy the view a few more times.
I did feel the game ended too quickly. I had reached a point where I thought, "This is really picking up now." Then it ended. I’d love to see a DLC or more content in the future, but for a project from a one-man team, I feel I got more than could even be asked for.
I’d put Pinstripe at an 8/10. It fits nicely with indie games like Child of Light or Limbo. It's beautiful to look at, and the soundtrack is hauntingly addictive. I only ever wanted more. Give it a couple days between replays to not overdo it, and I could see myself easily achievement-hunting with this game.
At a $15 price-tag it may not be the best fit for everyone, but the rich story and beautiful aesthetic will make it a good fit for fans of the genre.