This is Virginia.
It is a fine state, located on the east coast of the United States of America and has the historical significance of being the first English colony in the so called “new world” of mainland North America.
It however is not what we are here to talk about today.
This is about Virginia, the first person, mystery-adventure game.
In the game you play Anne Tarver, a newly graduated special agent in the FBI.
You are assigned your first case and a new partner in the beginning moments of the game. The case is to investigate the disappearance of a young boy in the town of Kingdom, Virginia and your new partner is Maria Halperin, the catch being that you are also being assigned the job of investigating Agent Halperin for Internal Affairs.
You very quickly get the feeling that your new partner is a bit of a outsider in the office when you find yourself trekking all the way to the basement to meet her for the first time. Your first car ride together also seems a little tense as at no point in the ride to Kingdom, Virginia do you see Halperin speak with you.
Or at least the appearance of speaking with you since the game makes a couple of interesting stylistic choices, one of which is the utter lack of dialogue, spoken or printed on screen. At no point in the game is there any voice acting and other than the words printed in official files there is nothing to read on screen. It is entirely up to the player to interpret what is going on through the animations of the characters and occasionally the score.
It is worth mentioning that the score to the game is beautiful and accompanies the action onscreen perfectly throughout. Which is good since it’s largely all there is to hear for the length of the game.
The other major stylistic choice they made was to use cinematic editing throughout the game. Whereas most games pride themselves on giving the player full control and lots of environmental input, Virginia does the opposite, limiting your interactivity with the environment and cutting out a lot of “needless” moments. You’ll find yourself walking down a hall one moment and it will cut to you in the back of a cab and a moment later cut to you in an elevator. The game is edited a lot like a movie and as such requires the limitation of what you are actually doing in game.
The lack of dialogue and the cinematic editing are largely effective but I can understand why many may find it off putting.
As for the story itself, I felt it was apparent that the writers were inspired in part by Twin Peaks or the X-Files, especially given the use of bizarre dream and dreamlike sequences.
Weird dream sequences with glowing red doors are a big part of the plot.
The townsfolk of Kingdom aren’t nearly as bizarre or quirky as the citizens of Twin Peaks but there are certainly a few really strange moments that occur during the course of the story that feel like they could have happened in David Lynch’s classic show. Unfortunately the story collapses under the weight of it’s own strangeness in the closing moments of the game, leaving one wondering what exactly they just saw and which parts were real or imagined.
There are many theories out there as to how much of the game was real life and how much is fantasy but I’ll leave those to any who wish to search them out.
In the end I felt the game was largely enjoyable, in part because of the majority of its story but certainly because of its interesting presentation.
Final Verdict: 6 out of 10. Virginia is a fascinating little game that takes a novel approach to its story telling, it is unfortunate that the story fails to maintain its momentum all the way through to the end.
For those who are interested in checking Virginia out without playing it yourselves you can view my entire 90 some odd minute play through below.