We’ll Always Have Paris is a narrative game about dementia. It’s relatively short but it does pack an emotional punch, especially if you are close to someone who has suffered from dementia and understand the impact on the individual, but also family and loved ones that surround them.
The game is about Simon Smith and his wife Claire, and they’ve been married for fifty years. Claire is suffering from dementia and is slowly losing who she is, her memories of her life with Simon and also their son Arthur. Claire forgets little things and big things alike, and Simon and Arthur struggle to deal with the fallout of the disease and the effect it has on their family.
We’ll Always Have Paris hits hard with its in-game puzzles and experiences. A good example is finding a torn-up wedding photo beside the bed. Claire’s clearly not been having a good day, and it’s up to Simon to put the pieces back together. The puzzles aren’t tough, but it’s the hard-hitting narrative that will take its toll. Having seen first-hand the impact of this disease on family, friends and loved ones, certainly brought a lot of personal memories flooding back. Games that manage to elicit an emotional response are always the most powerful, and this is up there with the most powerful I have experienced. I do warn you though if you have been through something similar it may stir up painful memories from the past, but it can also be a cathartic experience.
The torn photo is one of the mini-games, others are scattered throughout We’ll Always Have Paris and each one packs a similar emotional punch. Adding coins to a viewer, checking for ingredients and picking colours all add up to little mini-games to keep the game and narrative flow going.
Simon acts as our narrator for the game, and much of it we see through his eyes. There are dialogue options to pick, questions to answer and actions to take to keep the story moving forward. I am unsure of the impact of these decisions, I don’t think it’s supposed to be like Mass Effect where decisions have long-lasting consequences, it’s more of a vehicle to keep the story moving and offer up different dialogue choices along the way.
We’ll Always Have Paris isn’t very long at all, you can wrap up the story in a little under an hour, but the impact of the narrative will likely stick with you for some time. There are a few funny moments in the game, but the main topic is dementia. I think any education on this topic is a good idea because it’s still little known and such a vast and wide-ranging disease which impacts thousands of individuals and families every year.
Having had personal experience of seeing my father deteriorate, plus the impact on my mother from realisation to living with the disease, then having to deal with the fallout of the devastating impact of dementia on my father’s memory, removing his ability to speak and eventually his lack of ability to take care of himself, and the tough decisions that have to be made going into care. We’ll Always Have Paris managed to dig up some memories that were buried, but also managed to provide some comfort and catharsis along the way. The more we speak about dementia and share our experiences, the more support everyone will have in dealing with a disease that tears apart families all the time.
Tackling the topic of dementia is a tightrope to walk given it’s a heavy topic, but I think Cowleyfornia Studios have done a great job with We’ll Always Have Paris. It’s a short game, but that doesn’t take away from the impact it has. Thank you to Cowleyfornia Studios for providing a review copy of the game.