Fall of Porcupine is a game that I’ve been looking forward to playing ever since I first tried the Prologue. In a way, it reminds me of two of my favourite things: Scrubs and Night in the Woods. Now that I’ve played the full game, it’s time for me to reveal how I felt now that I could finally enjoy it.
In Fall of Porcupine, you play as Finley, a pigeon who is a junior doctor at St. Ursula’s Hospital in the small town of Porcupine. He’s new to the area and adjusting to his job, neighbours, and colleagues. However, he’s also recovering from a head injury he received after a collection of boxes fell on him when assisting his patient, Mr Arndes.
For those who played the Prologue, you’ll know that it ends with Finley’s head injury. You don’t have to replay that section before you start, but I feel that it’s a great addition to help understand that there’s something strange going on at St. Ursula’s. While at the hospital, you meet a wide array of colourful characters; Mia, your fellow junior doctor; Karl, an experienced nurse; Ingrid, the tired receptionist; Gregor, the misunderstood janitor; and Dr Krokowski, your to-the-point superior.
Of course, these are only a few people you’ll meet during your time in Porcupine. There are many residents outside of this, and your life doesn’t solely revolve around the hospital, even if it feels like that. As Finley, you’ll make many friends and some enemies. The town has a complicated relationship with St. Ursula’s, and there’s no doubt that it’s a cutting critique of the medical system. Finley’s job is tough, and you can see the effect it has on everyone as time goes on.
When Finley gets to work each day, he’s assigned patients through the help of his handy digital app on his phone. The app will tell you which room you need to go to and which of the diverse mini-games you’ll play to treat your patients. In one, you need to hold a collection of buttons together simultaneously (which is why it is universally recommended you play Fall of Porcupine with an Xbox controller). In another, you need to press the buttons in a rhythm to hear your patient's heartbeat. Personally, my favourite one was a tie between a basketball match with Mia and calculating the medicine I had to give to my patients. It’s funny because the latter was one I thought I would hate, but it was a lot of fun.
Finley only has to see three patients at a time during his shift, and once you complete your mini-games, you’ll be given a grade. Dr Krokowski will analyse your performance, which can affect your relationship with her and your colleagues. You can spend time with your colleagues at the end of each shift, allowing you to choose to socialise with Karl or Mia. In my first playthrough, I opted to spend more time with Mia. As much as I love Karl, he’s a bit of a hothead, and his storyline has often left me battling with angry townsfolk (such as Ralph, who is angry at the hospital for the death of his wife before Finley working at St. Ursula’s).
Fall of Porcupine occurs through the changing seasons, and each day is a new day for Finley. You essentially run and jump to work, with a few platforming elements thrown in, especially when you visit the Glowmilk Woods with your friend, Pina. Pina is a florist who is one of the young doctor’s first friends from outside of work; she is also your main guide who leads you through the culture of Porcupine. She tells you of the town’s traditions and is the first person to welcome our protagonist with open arms.
There’s no doubt that the town itself is adorable. You have three ways to get to work — via the town square, through the high street, or you can see if the bus is running on that particular day. I have never felt anything more accurate than the unfavourable bus schedules, and it truly gave the town a rural atmosphere.
As Finley progresses, he notices more of the strained relationships the town has with St. Ursula’s. He, Mia, and Karl work together to change things, as their primary goal is to look after their many patients. However, while this game is incredibly wholesome, it’s also surprisingly dark.
Due to the nature of the hospital setting, it’s impossible not to notice the underlying stress of everyone working at St. Ursula’s. There is a significant focus on how unforgiving the job is, and there’s a reason that I think that Fall of Porcupine is, in a way, a heartbreaking story. All the characters are so fleshed out, even the ones you don’t see all the time. You bond with all your patients, and there is always the fear that they may pass. I’m not going to go into much detail here but keep in mind that Fall of Porcupine deals with some heavy themes that might be difficult for some players. They even have a warning at the beginning of the game to remind you to take a break if you feel it’s sometimes getting too much.
Overall, it’s hard to find anything that I disliked about this game. While there were some minor issues, such as little bugs and minor problems with dialogue, these were all things that I’m well aware that the developers, Critical Rabbit, were already aware of. My only wish was that the messenger function of your phone had more of a role. You didn’t get the notifications immediately, and it felt a little underused. However, I think that’s more of a testament to how much I genuinely enjoyed the interactions with each character.
If you enjoy story-rich games with anthropomorphic animals that delve into heavy issues, then I can’t recommend Fall of Porcupine enough. This is a fantastic game that I know I will return to again in the future, with a storyline that will stay in my mind.
Fall of Porcupine (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Fall of Porcupine has a hard-hitting story beneath its wholesome veneer, with fun mini-games and memorable characters that are as cute as they are well-written.