Ever seen the movie Memento? The one where the guy can't remember much more than a few minutes at a time before he forgets everything? And the movie is set in reverse, so you see the end first and the beginning last?
Yeah. That's kinda what REW is like. Except memory isn't the problem - it's just telling the tale so your expectations are reversed. Cool way of doing a video game, but does it work in practice?
REW starts off pretty dang confusing, and understandably so - you begin with the end. You play the part of a shady-looking little bear who has just murdered an old woman, and is on the way out of the house through the window. From there the game works backwards, detailing why this seemingly harmless woman needed to be brutally murdered in the first place.
The story is probably REW's strongest element. Without revealing too much, REW does a great job of reversing expectations - not to mention explaining events that, at first, make no sense at all. Your 'hero', if you can call a murderer a hero, is not at all what he seems.
Beyond the story, REW is a point-and-click adventure game. You must manipulate items scattered around the screen to progress. This, predictably, involves a lot of clicking to see what items work with what parts of the environment.
Point-and-click. If your mouse works, so does REW.
REW is pretty nifty looking. Almost the entire thing is cast in midnight blacks and purples, with occasional dips into lighter colours for variety. The characters are particularly provocative, for though most of them don't say a word, they're quite expressive in their mannerisms. I especially liked the little murderer - he looks so damn twisted.
The same spooky song... over... and over... and over. I felt pretty meh about REW's sound offering, as the tune isn't terribly catchy (how many horror-esque songs can you peg as 'catchy?') and it never ends. Ever. Variety would have helped propel the story along.
Ah. Yeah. Here's where REW gets dicey: it's not difficult at all.
Which, for story-based games, doesn't usually bother me too much. You're trying to tell a tale, you want the gamer to progress, you keep the game fairly simple as a result. I get that. Thing is, you still need to provide interesting game play to support the story - and REW fails in that department.
Point-and-click adventures are seldom exciting. Most of the time you're staring at largely static screens, trying to figure out how this axe works with this tree, or whether this key fits in this lock, or that box, or maybe that bowl of pudding. Interesting, stimulating, but not exciting.
Unfortunately, REW is neither exciting nor terribly stimulating. The point-and-click nature of the game often isn't logical: rather than taking an item and using it somewhere else, in most cases you're just clicking on stuff until something happens. Do so in the right order and presto! The game continues. (Backwards.) Giving the player more control to figure out how items work together would've been nice.
That said, I WILL admit that the concept of working backwards for this kind of game is pretty neat, for it you can remember where an item was in the previous screen, you can probably figure out what's supposed to happen to make it get there in the NEXT screen. More interaction would have made this (perhaps unintended, I'm not sure) mechanic downright fascinating.
REW is a neat experience. As a game it's not so hot, but as a story it's quite nifty. Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes to run through this little murder mystery - it's well worth the time spent.