The Suicide of Rachel Foster hits heavy from the beginning. It opens by cutting between your mother’s funeral and you reading the last letter she ever wrote for you. Every scene is incredibly detailed, with a lot of effort clearly having gone into the design. The confined setting means the focus on the minutiae of the hotel has been executed very nicely.
The mechanics are simple. You walk around, click on items to interact with them. That’s it, for the majority of the game. It’s not a long enough game to start to drag, but this is not a game for anyone who prefers a fast pace.
There are some mechanics introduced that could have been built up a lot more. Any time a new option is introduced, it sticks around for one thread and never comes up again. For instance, having to use a Polaroid camera flash when the lights all go out. This felt like it was going to provide some challenge, but you find a torch almost immediately. I thought it might tie into the story, somehow, with a photo that edged the narrative along, but that also didn’t happen.
You have a radio, which you use to call a FEMA agent, who helps you figure out where to look for new information and nudges you along the narrative. The prompts you get are designed nicely. They don’t give away too much but give you just enough to figure it out for yourself. If you do forget what you’re doing, the feeling of aimlessly wandering around a hotel feeds into the atmosphere of the game.
Between the storm blowing outside, the eerie crackle of the early ’90s radio and the groaning of a decrepit building, The Suicide of Rachel Foster creates a sense of tension that lends itself to the spookiness of the story. However, it is the story overall where this game stumbles. With a name like The Suicide of Rachel Foster, it really needs to be able to handle sensitive topics delicately, but it comes across as very clunky.
Your explorations reveal family secrets that have been hidden for over a decade. Your parents split up when your father had an affair with a sixteen-year-old girl who committed suicide when the infidelity was exposed – or so the story goes.
There are numerous inconsistencies in the accepted narrative that you uncover to reveal the truth. Some of them feel far too obvious to have been missed by authorities at the time. For me, the revelations didn’t make for a particularly effective twist ending at all and spoilt a lot of the suspense.
Another issue I had throughout is the way the father is presented as if he was a victim of circumstance who just happened to fall in love with the wrong person. But the story itself admits that he is a teacher who groomed a child for his own gratification, resulting in her death and a lot of trauma for his own family and hers. If you take any time to think about that narrative and the way it seems to forgive what amounts to child abuse, the whole plot becomes very uncomfortable. Especially when the only playable character continues to defend those abhorrent actions to the end.
The atmosphere can be somewhat confusing. At times, it wasn’t clear if it was supposed to a straightforward investigation, or if I was going to come across ghosts. I feel like the ambiguity was deliberate, but I don’t think it struck quite the balance it wanted. Then there is the end, which (avoiding spoilers) feels like it’s trying harder to be a shocking finale than a consistent or satisfying conclusion.
Review: The Suicide of Rachel Foster (Nintendo Switch)
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is well constructed when it comes to design and mechanics, but is let down if you stop to examine the plot for a moment. The deeper into the game you get, the more it feels like it’s trying to shock rather than effectively engage with serious topics.