Version Tested: PC
Available On: Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems
Developer: Atmos Games
Publisher: Armor Games
Genre: Puzzle video game, Adventure game
Official Site: Pinstripe
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam
Indie games have relied on the platforming and puzzle genre for a while now, and as a result, the well has almost run dry. Even so, Pinstripe manages to create a unique and harrowing experience, driven by interesting characters and distinctive mechanics to set itself apart from the sea of other projects in the genre.
The troubling tale begins on a train, as Reverend Teddy and his daughter Bo are traveling on a train for some unknown reason. From the outset, the relationship between the two feels charming and genuine, from pretending to be Sherlock Holmes and Watson to Bo trying to scare her father saying bBoo while accidentally saying boob.
After a few puzzles and more silliness from Bo, an ominous figure is introduced bathed in darkness, lit only by the glow of his cigarette. Following a turn of events, being drugged and then seeing Bo get kidnapped by a Balloon, the ex-minister is transported to the frozen depths of Hell, where he must chase down the devilish man known as Pinstripe to rescue Bo.
Antagonists in games are hard to get right when trying to come off as scary without being cliche or cheesy, but Pinstripe’s introduction and following actions were some of the more chilling moment I can remember from a game recently. All of it was done without the need for any jump scares or harsh music cuts (cliches), but instead was relied on his macabre appearance and mannerism to set a scary tone.
Throughout the early parts of the game, there is little Ted can do to fight Pinstripe, as the tall and vulgar man taunts him, floating in the sky and usually ending his sentences in an emotional outburst where he insults the Father. Once the Reverend is able to find his daughters sling shot though, the few enemies that Pinstripe does throw – Floating Balloons like the one that kidnapped Bo – at Ted aren’t difficult to combat.
Alongside his appearance and actions, Dick Terhune should be praised for his work as Pinstripe, knowing how to make even the simplest of conversations seem creepy via a change in his voices inflection. Despite Ted not having a voice actor – which I did find somewhat odd – the rest of the cast also did superb jobs in their roles, which shouldn’t really be too surprising considering their day jobs as Youtuber’s has them talking all day.
Though they play small support roles, for the most part, Youtubers Jacksepticeye (Jack / Drunk Man 2), Pewdiepie (Felix) and Game Grumps’ Ross (Mr. Dicky) all portrayed their characters wonderfully. Nathan sharp – better known as NateWantsToBattle on Youtube – played arguably the best supporting role as George the family dog, providing insight I’d imagine my dog would if he could talk.
I’ve watched a few of these Youtubers before, so I know what their voices sound like, yet I was unaware of any of these inclusions in Pinstripe from the outset. So when I saw their names in the credits I was impressed with just how fluidly they were able to separate themselves from the personalities they are known for on their channels and bring the characters they were playing to life.
The setting these characters suffer in is also fascinating, as Thomas Brushes’ rendition of hell gives off big Tim Burton vibes. From the dark and harsh colored backgrounds to the way each character is designed, Pinstripe’s gothic structure feels like an ode to the beloved director’s art style.
What sets the one man developers eerie setting apart is how Pinstripe rules over his people. Using Sacks, the titular antagonist is able to get the inhabits of the game addicted to the drug like substance, then holding it over their heads to do his bidding in hopes of receiving more Sacks.
All of these elements lend to the gameplay and help set it apart from generic indie games currently flooding Steam’s marketplace. Pinstripe’s platforming and puzzle solving are somewhat simple, yet still intricate and unique. From using the Slingshot with other unlocked elements in the game, like fire to unveil buttons or playing a minigame of I Spy, each mechanic was easy to understand and also satisfying to figure out. Most importantly, each puzzle feels distinct by not relying on the same mechanic or puzzle structure over and over again, resulting in a feeling of overuse or repetition.
Pinstripe does lack a bit of depth when it comes to its combat though, as there are really only three main enemies, none of which put up too much of a fight outside of the end boss. But as I went on, I find myself not caring all too much about the exclusion of heavy combat elements in the game. Instead of trying to force these elements into the game – something a lot of products seem to do which inevitably take away from the experience – Pinstripe focuses on its strengths and didn’t prolong its playthrough by adding too many lesser elements.
Interestingly enough, I did actually enjoy the final battle with Pinstripe, despite it being a formulaic battle of avoid and attack. It felt truly satisfying to defeat the man who had kidnapped someone I grew attached to quickly and shut his vulgar, mocking mouth once and for all.
After about a three-hour playthrough, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game also had a New Game Plus option in it as well, which I jumped into immediately. The first playthrough teased me with options to buy a Tommy Gun and other interesting items at Happy’s shop, but they cost far too many ice droplets to purchase. New Game Plus literally rewarded me with ice droplets though for finishing the game, giving me a gold key that unlocked areas filled with thousands of them. Each room was also devoted to the contributors to the original Kickstarter, which was also a nice touch.
While the Tommy Gun was fun to play with for a bit, and the other items added neat aesthetics to Teddy and George, none of them had an impact on the ending. Even more so, I wasn’t even able to bring the Tommy Gun with me to Red Wash, so I wasn’t even able to reap the benefits of its purchase by using it in the final battle with Pinstripe.
Overall I believe that Pinstripe is an excellent game elevated by it’s grim, yet beautiful story and characters and they world they live in. There is very few antagonist that can measure up to the title character either, reminiscent of how I felt as a child anytime I would see Stephen King’s IT, running to hide under my covers with the lights on. That being said, even a scaredy cat like me really enjoyed Pinstripe and it’s dark ambiance.
- Gameplay: Platforming and Puzzling at it’s best, though combat is lacking
- Graphics: Beautiful Tim Burton esque art and characters
- Sound: Purposeful sound design and surprisingly good voice acting
- Presentation: A dark tale that sets itself apart from other games in the genre
- Engrossing characters
- Malevolent antagonist
- Intricate puzzles
- Youtuber actor integration
- No voice actor for Ted
- Disappointing New Game Plus