Pinstripe is a little indie puzzle game that came out last year. The game has been overshadowed by other successful indie games like Cuphead, however, this short and creepy game is worth more than its three-hour play time.
The game opens in a steampunk train carriage, where players can navigate the train as minister, Teddy, with his daughter Bo in tow. Here, players can choose between kind-hearted or rude dialogue options to play as a ‘good’ Teddy or ‘bad’ Teddy, bringing an element of the choice-based game. One of these dialogue options occurs with fellow train passenger, Mr. Pinstripe. Mr. Pinstripe is a suspicious figure, with an angular face that is covered in shadow, as well as an ability to eerily float at all times. As his name suggests, Mr. Pinstripe is an integral part of Pinstripe as a whole: in the process of exploring the train, Bo is kidnapped by Mr. Pinstripe and whisked away to the depths of Hell, which Teddy must traverse in order to get his daughter back.
During his navigation of different levels of Hell, Teddy must use Bo’s slingshot to solve puzzles as well as a weapon against bomb dropping machines. Here, gameplay incorporates platform and combat like game mechanics, making it a skilful blend of different game genres that means basically anyone could find the game enjoyable. Perhaps the only slight negative to the game would be the occasionally fiddly slingshot mechanics, but that generally helps to make the puzzles more challenging.
To help with some of the secrets of the game, Teddy is eventually reunited with his (talking) family dog, George. Whilst George is useful as a companion for Teddy so he’s not constantly talking aloud to himself, George does have the quality of Legend of Zelda’s Navi…
Compared with the slow burn success of the plot, the immediate drawing point of the game is its design. Whilst the 2D style itself is obviously simplistic, the character design and backgrounds are easily classified as beautiful and artful in themselves. Each scene looks like it could be constructed from paper, with snow twisted trees, menacingly calm snow fall, and shadow shrouded settings that could easily host a psychological horror game. The influences of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, and Alice in Wonderland are evident from this fantastical style.
As a whole the overarching experience of this game is breath-taking. Without spoiling the plot, this game really toys with players’ expectations and leaves players doubting their original interpretations of the story. This game is not only a joy to play, with engaging puzzles and captivating game design, but is a beautifully constructed story in itself.
Most astonishing of all is how this clever little game was created over five years by Thomas Brush, who was the main designer, programmer, artist, writer and composer. Brush is currently preparing for the sequel to his eight-year-old flash game Coma, titled Once Upon a Coma, which bodes to be as impactful as Pinstripe.
Pinstripe is available on Steam and the Nintendo Switch as of October 25th 2018.