top of page
  • Writer's pictureSofi

Fall of Porcupine (2023)

Developer: Critical Rabbit

We have been both blessed and cursed with a bunch of exciting new indie game releases this summer, and I'm just doing my best to keep up! I have been excited for Fall of Porcupine ever since I saw the trailer which had big Night in the Woods vibes. I honestly went into this game knowing very little about the the story, but hoping for another cute but weird small-town mystery. Fall of Porcupine is a side-scrolling adventure about an unhealthy healthcare system through the eyes of a new doctor in a small town. Fall of Porcupine thoughtfully sheds light on a real systemic problem in a unique way, but its bugs and lack of depth keep it from being as impactful as it could have been.

Finley is the newest doctor at St. Ursula's, a hospital in the small town of Porcupine. Not long after having started his job there, Finley gets injured by some falling boxes while trying to help a runaway patient on the abandoned 5th floor of the hospital. Our story starts when Finley is at home recovering, having been released from work for a few days due to his injury. He has recurring dreams about the incident, which is still sort of confusing in his mind - how did those boxes fall on him? We are introduced to Porcupine, a cozy small town where everyone knows each other. It's the end of summer, and Finley is strolling back into work at St. Ursula's. His work days are long and as summer shifts into autumn, he's generally headed home once the sun is already down. Despite Finley doing his best to treat patients, he'll find himself overworked and underappreciated by those around him. This friendly small town is not as friendly as it seems, and the hospital has secrets of its own.

What drew my attention to Fall of Porcupine at its reveal was definitely its playful art style in telling a darker story, as well as its heavy use of warm, autumnal colors in its world. The characters are all pretty adorable and the environments are cozy and colorful in their hand-painted style. My only complaint is that so often, Finley would leave work and it would be not just nighttime, but pitch dark outside. I understand that the sun can set early in a lot of places, but the environment was ridiculously dark. I think most town would have some lighting turned on at night, but when I walked at night as Finley I could barely see the path in front of me. I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack, which has a fitting acoustic and indie folk vibe. The vocal track, "Summer's Gone By" perfectly captures the melancholy feeling of the seasons changing and getting colder. It'll definitely be one I listen to again when fall comes around.

The game uses just a few select colors of fall to portray a fairly detailed, colorful world.

I started playing Fall of Porcupine about a week after release and did definitely encounter some bugs like others mentioned, but nothing game-breaking. To the developer's credit, some of the issues I was having one day would be resolved the next day with a patch (for example, there was a weird semi-transparent black square at the top of my screen for a little bit). The biggest issue that I didn't get to see resolved during my playthrough was funky behavior of dialogue and phone notes. I encountered a few times where a character would say something that made no senses in the context of the story, but then suddenly 30 minutes later what they were talking about would actually happen. Also, Finley's phone notes about the townsfolk sometimes would mention something about a character that hadn't been mentioned in conversation at all - it gave slight spoilers of future conversations. There was also one part near the end where a characters' lines kept repeating, so they would say each line twice. Things like this were manageable but definitely broke the immersion, especially in high-intensity moments.

Maybe my brightness is too low, but this is just too dark to walk around in. Also, see featured a weird but mostly unintrusive bug at the bottom of the screen.

In Fall of Porcupine you actually play as a doctor, which gameplay-wise means you have a bunch of mini-games that represent different tasks. These mini-games range from really fun to really frustrating. There's one mini-game where you had to keep holding buttons (left image) and as they added more, some that would make your hand have to shift and adjust in incredibly difficult ways. I feel like this was made with keyboard in mind and did not consider how ridiculous it would be to try to hold down like 4 buttons with one thumb, especially when you had to keep readjusting as quick as possible. On the other hand, some mini-games are excellent, such as one that's basically just Wordle but with symbols. There is also an organizing mini-game (right image) you unfortunately only get to do once but is super satisfying - it kind of reminded me of something from A Little to the Left. You get scored based on how well you perform these tasks, and although I was upset that I'd do pretty bad every time on certain games, I found later that the scoring didn't really affect anything.

Fall of Porcupine has a cast of mostly lovable, interesting characters. For the most part, I enjoyed getting to know all of them, especially the really goofy side characters. However, I felt that despite having some good friendships in Porcupine, I felt that a lot of people either took advantage of Finley's good nature or treated him unfairly for very minor mistakes. It's important to the story that Finley's supervising doctor, Dr. Krokowski, supervising doctor can be cruel and unfair, but I'm not just talking about people at his work. This game is probably the first game I've seen to try to address the systemic problems in healthcare. It was made by a German studio, but the issues portrayed are definitely relevant to the American healthcare system - I'm not sure if that's overlap or if it was intentional. There were underlying themes of inequality of service in healthcare for those of different income levels and how prohibitively expensive medical care can be for some. However, I feel that it didn't dive into these topics as much as I would've hoped. On the other hand, it did address the severe overwork that healthcare employees have to endure, and even touched on how traumatic these situations can be the doctors. I felt that much of the story progressed a bit too slowly until it got near the end when the story ramped up fast and began to answer questions I'd been wondering all game. Unfortunately, I felt like it ended too soon without a clear resolution. Perhaps I looked to this game to be a successor to Night in the Woods, where there's much more of an aspect of "solving a mystery" and figuring out the motive of the villainous entity - yet, this was very different from that.

Maybe it's a small-town sentiment, but I was shocked to hear people blame doctors things they couldn't prevent.

Fall of Porcupine was a genuine effort to highlight issues with modern healthcare, and the team clearly did their research by interviewing real healthcare professionals. I have mixed feelings because I feel that this game did something really important, through a very unique lens, but it didn't quite land as heavily as I wished it would've. I think the game will continue to improve as bugs are fixed, but unfortunately the ending still left me wanting to more answers. I would definitely consider going back to this game and trying out different choices to see more story if they added a chapter select mode. I recommend this game if you like thoughtful story games and enjoy fairly challenging mini-games, although it's not quite as much of a "mystery-solving" game as I thought it would be.

Fall of Porcupine is available on PC, Switch, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S

Played on: PC (Steam Deck)

Finished: 6/25/2023

Playtime: 11 hrs

40 views0 comments


bottom of page