I've been on a story-driven game kick ever since I played What Remains of Edith Finch, which I loved. I enjoy when a game grips me with its story right away, lets me play little minigames and solve puzzles, and then ends with a mystery solved or a plot point that leaves you thinking about it for months after you're finished.
This...is not that game. I have defended "walking sims" in the past, arguing that it's more than just literally walking to the next point because the game includes puzzles or sidequests or minigames, but this game doesn't have any of that. The game consists of walking to exactly where the game wants you to (there's nothing else to do except pick flowers for no apparent reason) and then it cuts to the next scene. Many of these actions are incomprehensibly timed and give you no indication of it, so right in the middle of reading something the game will just cut away. This happens over and over, so you always feel like you're rushing to read everything the game throws at you. The controls are also poor, especially considering there are only 3 buttons you need (the two joysticks and the X button), yet somehow walking and moving the camera feels extremely clumsy and slow. This is coupled with graphics that are neither nostalgic nor pretty to look at; the screen is just blocky characters with drab environments, with the exception of the driving scenes which are actually quite pretty.
This could all be excused if there was a coherent plot. Alas, the game relies on an actual Acid trip, complete with UFOs and a trippy cave, to try and "explain" what is going on, but it doesn't work. Are we supposed to think the Acid trip is real? Are we supposed to think it's a memory from someone else? Is it just a nonsensical dream? The game never explains it.
The entire plot, in fact, is given in such small, incremental scenes that you never get to really spend time getting to know the characters. You play as a newly minted FBI Agent who is told she has to investigate another Agent under the guise of being her partner to investigate a missing persons case. You walk around "talking" to people to investigate, but there is no voice acting or dialogue at all in this game. Normally I would think that was a cool spin, but in this game, it desperately needed some context. It's a game about investigating crimes and talking to suspects, and yet we never know what anyone has said in conversation to help solve our mystery. The game tries to make its impact through facial expressions of it's blocky characters, but this doesn't work and ends up falling flat. If you're going to make a game about talking to people, you should probably have dialogue.
The fact that literally no one knows what's going on in this game is clear by the insane theories floating around the internet. When I finished the game, utterly lost and confused about what I was supposed to glean from it, I took to Reddit. Fan theories ranged from "it was the memory of her father all along" to "racism and the patriarchy" to "the JFK Assassination." To me, that's not the sign of an existential game where you can draw your own conclusions. That's the sign of a game with no central theme or plot that was shoved together so poorly that people have to make up themes themselves to try and make sense of it. If you are going to make a game that is completely based around the story, you have to do better than this. If you want to send a profound message to the gamer, then send the message; don't force together small, vague vignettes with no clear theme or message.
I will give a shout out to the great soundtrack, which is easily the best part of the game and blends in really well to what is going on in the game.
Luckily, the game was only 2 hours, and while I felt like I was on my own Acid trip the entire time, I can't say I wasn't entertained by the experience. While this is the last story-driven game I would ever recommend to anyone, if you can find it cheap and you've already played all the better games in this genre, you will find a couple hours of amusement.