Pinstripe – Review
Your daughter has been kidnapped by the sinister Mr Pinstripe. Are you a bad enough dude to save her? Here’s what we think of Pinstripe.
If there is a hell in Pinstripe, it is impossible to tell from the screenshots. Every frame of the game is delicately painted, with subtle, yet powerful use of colour. Pinstripe’s version of hell has no brimstone or horned Baphomets. Instead, it is a world where sorrow wears beauty as a skin. And it’s in Hell, this drug-addled world of longing, that ex-minister Teddy must find his daughter Bo.
When we first meet Teddy and Bo, it’s on a train. Rightaway, Bo became one of my favourite video game children, thanks in very large part to the game’s impeccable voice acting. She is a delight in any scene, and that is what makes the inevitable separation all the more painful. Bo gets kidnapped by the sinister Mr Pinstripe, a demonic entity that effectively channels a more gothic version of Mark Hamill’s Joker.
With Bo gone, Teddy finds himself in a strange world where he must rely on the support of eccentric friends (and experience the complete apathy of others). The denizens of hell call to mind non-player characters from Dark Souls games: they don’t have much to say, and what little they do have to say is quite morose. Unfortunately, they also don’t have much development in the game, leaving little reason to care for them.
Assisting Teddy in his quest is his dark-furred pet dog, George, who offers hints and congratulations. More often than not, I found him to be distracting and rarely very helpful. With George getting little backstory or development, I couldn’t but feel that his exclusion would have strengthened the solitary aspect of Teddy’s quest.
Pinstripe is chiefly a puzzle game, but the puzzles are never particularly head-scratchers. It’s not a challenging game, but then, challenge was never a part of the pitch. Instead, it’s a game of mood, atmosphere and running: lots and lots of running around on your needle-shaped legs. You’ll be running back, and you’ll be running forth, thanks to the game’s extensive use of backtracking. For a game of this scale, however, it doesn’t feel like a waste, particularly when the areas you traverse are so scenic.
Teddy is armed with a slingshot, which he uses with surprising speed. The few times the game requires you to fight, you either jump on your foes or use your slingshot with the efficiency of a semi-automatic firearm. It’s satisfying to use, and this is in large part due to the game’s stellar sound design.
As a product, Pinstripe’s chief strength is its presentation. The gothic visuals of the game are lushly illustrated and call to mind the works of Amanita Design. Meanwhile, the sounds of Pinstripe have a professional heft to them that adds a whole another dimension to the game.
It’s a little unbecoming to mention a game’s development in its review, but I feel like Pinstripe deserves some special recognition, because the nature of its development played heavily on my mind as I took Teddy’s spindly legs running about in hell. Pinstripe is a rare game in that it was almost entirely made by one man. Thomas Brush, the mastermind behind the game, was responsible for the art, sound, music, design and programming of the game in a development process that took five years.
This presents an unusual dilemma in how the game should be perceived. As a work of effort by one man of incredible talent, Pinstripe is a remarkable achievement: worthy of being an inspiration not only to solo indie developers, but also to specialised collaborators. It’s hard not to give this game its due share of respect when there are so many games made by sizeable teams that don’t reach the level of polish and attention that has been lavished on Pinstripe.
When thrown into a shopping cart amongst its other peers and stripped of its author, however, Pinstripe is a very brief, pleasant jaunt that refuses to challenge, surprise or be particularly memorable. It feels like a trinket you’d place in a showcase: beautiful, and perhaps even evocative to the right person, but ultimately something you’ll forget is there in your library.
This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the publisher, Armor Games. Pinstripe is available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux. The PC version was played for a review. Better wait for a sale.