The Forest Cathedral Review

Explore what happens when strangeness works against you with The Forest Cathedral from Whitethorn Games

The Forest Cathedral Review
Source: Steam.

There are some video games whose idiosyncrasies work strongly in their favor. Others, whether by accident or effort, cannot stick the landing and end up joining the much longer list of games that might appeal to some but are ultimately too eclectic—or too unappealing—to find a wider audience.

The Forest Cathedral is a niche offering by Brian Wilson and published via Whitethorn Games. Available on Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation. I played the PlayStation 5 version thanks to a developer code and found the game to be a unique first-person psychological thriller exploring a loose interpretation of biologist Rachel Carson. According to the website, "Players will slowly uncover the effects of DDT by using advanced environmental technology to solve 2D/3D connected puzzles in this dramatic retelling of Silent Spring."

While advertised as a psychological thriller, The Forest Cathedral is more of a bizarre collection of events and gameplay elements tied together by Rachel Carson's crusade against chemical pesticides. The game does its best to showcase the beauty of the natural world and how the harmful DDT pesticide threatened fish and wildlife, but even to its end, it's quite confusing as to why this particular subject matter is the game's focus.

A distorted view of an evergreen wood in afternoon light.
Source: Press Kit.

Utilizing a blend of "walking simulator" environmental puzzles and exploration with traditional platforming elements, parts of The Forest Cathedral could work if the game wasn't so starkly off-putting. It comes across as more of a student project than a finished game, and at its price point might not appeal to gamers looking for an indie game experience that is so at odds with itself.

The psychological thriller aspect of the game comes across as intensely antagonistic to the player: a disparity of primary colors and environmental design exist for seemingly no purpose, and the puzzles can be alarmingly frustrating with little in the way of reward or conclusion. The life of Rachel Carson isn't so much celebrated as it is dictated; there is something starkly inhuman in the way the narrative plays out.

Certainly, The Forest Cathedral deserves its appraisals, but it is a game that left me scratching my head. Perhaps the author intended to blend subjects they found interesting and end up in a more auteur-focused space. Instead, the game feels disjointed, unfocused, and maddening. A few clever gameplay elements aside, the game veers too strongly into the uncanny valley to be anything other than an experiment, and misses the mark on both art and entertainment.


Sign in or become a SUPERJUMP member to join the conversation.