Enter the world of a poem in Unleaving, a provocative and artistic puzzle platformer that has launched for PC

Poetry in motion.

3 mins read
The key art for Unleaving.

We need more art in games. Period. There is an entire world of the fine arts just begging to become someone’s inspiration, but instead it feels like new game releases just repeat its genre’s common formula with a new skin. That is what makes me so excited about puzzle platformer Unleaving: the developers have used a poem as the basis of the narrative and took inspiration from painters for the visuals. Unleaving launched for PC earlier today.

Unleaving’s title comes from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s 19th-century poem Spring and Fall: To a Young Child. More specifically, it is written within the first two lines, which read:

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?

The poem is from the view of an adult, speaking to a young child named Margaret who is grieving over falling autumn leaves as though they were friends that would never be seen again. The loss of leaves is a metaphor for the transient nature of life.

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The game brings the poem comes to life by blending its metaphorical narrative with physics-based challenges. Through the eyes of a child, explore life’s deeper questions. The puzzles are integrated into the narrative so that they feel natural, not mechanical. Each chapter has a theme, and the puzzles are embedded within it. The protagonist acts an an extension of the player and provides opportunity for self-reflection.

Related reading: If you’re interested in games rooted in the visual arts you should check out Please, Touch the Artwork 2. (It’s free!)

Unleaving’s artwork combined different styles and mediums, most often blending impressional hand paintings inspired by artists like Van Gogh and J. M. W. Turner with pencil illustrations that give the impression of living art. The style is made by altering acrylic painting on canvas while capturing the frames during the process. This gives the background subtle changes as the player moves forward. The use of “real-life art” is meant to ground players in the world.

“With Unleaving, players can treat their experience as their own personal journey,” says Sura Karnawi, orangutan matter’s studio co-lead, in a press release. “Like children expressing themselves freely, players are encouraged not only to solve puzzles, but to look further into the questions that each challenge poses and interpret the experience in their own unique way. We want to inspire introspection and curiosity, inviting players to embrace the boundless freedom of expression reminiscent of childhood, exploring wider perspectives, inhabited from judgment—a childlike spirit transcending status, age, beliefs.”

Developed and published by orangutan matter, Unleaving is available now for PC via Steam.

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Lindsay picked up an NES controller for the first time at the age of 6 and instantly fell in love. She began reviewing GBA games 20 years ago and quickly branched out from her Nintendo comfort zone. She has has developed a great love of life sims and FMV titles. For her, accessibility is one of the most important parts of any game (but she also really appreciates good UI).

  • Played most of this game in one sitting, so beautiful and immersive. Effectively a dream. Some very tough puzzles though, haha!

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