Pinstripe: A Short, But Deeply Moving Story | A Short Pause Review
Pinstripe is a very short game with an impactful narrative and excellent presentation across the board. While its length — and lack of replay value — may be discouraging to some, there is still a lot to appreciate about Pinstripe.
As the story begins, you assume the role of Teddy, a minister traveling by train with his daughter Bo, as they encounter an ominous figure who goes by the name of Pinstripe. Just before the train derails, Pinstripe lures Bo away from Teddy and vanishes from the scene. When Teddy comes to, he finds himself in a mysterious world and sets out to find his daughter. During his quest, Teddy encounters his dog, George, who accompanies him along the way and, at times, assists with many of the puzzles that must be solved in order to progress to the next world. At first, I wasn’t 100% sure as to what the story was about, but after a second play through, it finally dawned on me. By piecing together the clues you come across throughout the story, everything comes into focus and you’re hit with an emotional punch once the final scene plays out. I’m sure others will catch on quicker than I did, but I’m glad I eventually got it, because it definitely had a profound impact on my overall experience.
The biggest strength of Pinstripe is undoubtedly the talent of Thomas Brush, a one-man development team who handled everything from the game’s artwork and writing, to its score and programming. The visuals here — reminiscent of Tim Burton’s work in A Nightmare Before Christmas — are unique and haunting as Brush brings his version of Hell to life. There are many interpretations of Hell throughout gaming and the arts, and Brush chooses here to go with a more subtle, eerie aesthetic. Everything from the mysterious vendors who work from the shadows, to the drunken NPCs who just speak gibberish during your first encounter before actually playing a bigger role in filling in Teddy’s dark backstory, are lovingly crafted and well-realized. All of this is set against a fantastic score that fills each area and encounter with a sense of dread and mystery.
Pinstripe is a puzzle-adventure game with very light Metroidvania elements sprinkled in. There are six worlds to explore, and you’ll be going back to every one of them once new mechanics become available to you. The puzzles featured in Pinstripe — while not terribly obvious — aren’t brain busters by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a few that are pretty clever and can present a challenge if you’re not paying attention. The game also features some mild combat by means of Bo’s slingshot, but none of the enemies you encounter — including the final showdown with Pinstripe — pose as much of a threat at all, even with the clunky aiming system working against you at times. There is very little incentive to go back through the campaign outside of some Kickstarter fanfare and a few items you’ll be able to purchase that’ll help you obtain an achievement/trophy that unlocks if you beat the game in under an hour.
Despite its shortcomings in regards to the puzzles, combat, and overall length, I still walked away from Pinstripe moved by the emotional tale surrounding Teddy and why he is headed down this dreary path. The art style is excellent and appealing, and each area is unique in its own way and littered with cynical characters who clue you in on Teddy’s haunted past. Coupled with a fantastic score and solid voice acting, Pinstripe manages to overcome its imperfections with an excellent presentation and a touching story that makes it worth a look.
We reviewed Pinstripe on Xbox One using a digital copy graciously provided to us by the fine folks at Armor Games. Thank you!