Sally Face (PC Review): We All Wear A Mask

Proving that we all wear masks (or prosthetics) to hide our true selves, follow Sal 'Sally Face' Fisher and he and his friends unite against an evil prescence.

Sally Face was a pleasant surprise. Well, if pleasant means grotesque, an enigmatic lead, a unique take on My Little Pony, and struggling to navigate around some seemingly straightforward mazes is pleasant, then yes, a pleasant surprise.

A little exposition – you didn’t ask, but humour me. This past week and a bit has been a lot of demo playing. I seldom play demos, but the Steam Next Fest and similar, showcase some truly fantastic games.

In short, I’ve attempted to cover as many as possible at the sacrifice of covering many new titles or news pieces. On the upside, this has given me a bit more time to buy up a host of games on my wishlist; Sally Face being one of them.

Sally Face PC Review

That should explain why I’m reviewing a game from 2016, but there are no rules here – I’ll review Double Dragon if I please. Wait, I didKinda. Five years ago isn’t that long, and Sally Face is as relevant as it can be, and I implore you to seek it out.

Sally Face PC Review - Green jelly
Green jelly. Source: Screen capture

Steam currently rates it as overwhelmingly positive, and aside from a few gobby Twitter types, Steam reviewers tend to have my mindset in seeing the good in a game, often ranking higher than the critics. Well, first impressions weren’t all that great.

While I knew that the game I had just purchased was Sally Face episode one, I wasn’t expecting it to have such a brief playtime. It wasn’t a conventional point and click either. You move Sal, the protagonist, left and right through corridor after corridor, clicking anything that crosses his path.

The perspectives were out, opening one door after the next and not having much to do had me mildly doubt the reviews. By the time I finished episode one, I immediately purchased the season pass. Why? The storytelling in this game from Portable Moose is fantastic.

Conspiracy Theory

But what the bloody hell is it about? You’re building it up, but I have no clue about the story. Sod it; I’m going to read about it on Steam…

WAIT! Ok, my apologies. What’s Sally Face about?

You play the title character (and a few others), reliving his past. Relocating to a new town, following the untimely death of this mother (further explained in later episodes), Sal “Sally Face” Fisher, moves into Addison Apartments with his father, Henry.

Sally Face PC Review - BFF
BFF. Source: Screen capture

In the first episode, a murder occurs almost immediately upon his arrival – the cops already on the scene. Sal quickly befriends the maintenance lady’s son, Larry, and they set out to uncover (and solve) the crime as the latter witnessed something. Cue some deep-rooted conspiracies, supernatural elements and some terrible tragedies. Aren’t they all?

Cursor? Curses!

Each episode is progressively better, implementing experimental techniques with varying art styles, further tying up loose threads and deeper meanings as the developer finds their mojo

A lot is covered in the first episode of Sally Face, but there’s a lot of unfinished business, which compels you to continue with the rest of the four episodes (there are five. Maths). As it came out in 2016, staggered releases over three years, it’s like binge-watching Lost or Game of Thrones without fear of having to wait for the next instalment.

We shift back and forth to the present as Sal is standing trial for a murder they may or may not have committed. Through the flashbacks, you uncover more that’ll quench your thirst for answers, and there are many optional and hidden elements weaved throughout.

But it’s easy to miss areas unless you’re meticulous. Hotspots will flash up as you approach them, but not everything is listed, and you will find yourself pacing up and down until the penny drops, and you tap a button/key wherever you are, in fear of missing out. Without a cursor, you spend your time sniffing about like a bloodhound in heat.

Walk And Click

It’s possible to inspect your inventory, but you don’t need to access it other than a character switching episode, as most actions are automated when in the vicinity of a key location. It’s not a typical point and click, as mentioned, and would also find a good home on consoles. 

Sally Face PC Review - Mono
Mono. Source: Screen capture

Sally was released on the Switch earlier in the year.

Combining absurd concoctions in your inventory isn’t a worry, nor are some of the switch puzzles or item hunting – even when they aren’t listed. However, I found the maze-like areas difficult when having to backtrack until it clicked.

In the later episodes, Sally Face gets a little more convoluted. The story unfolds faster, and the interactive elements are much more varied, usually real-time events. It seems that the developer wanted to showcase their talent and offer variety and value for the player. It’s essentially the same game, just a little more experimental both in aesthetics and gameplay.

Huh Huh, Cool

The art style in Sally Face is brilliant. I loved the main character, Sal. Perhaps you thought he was a girl as well? It wasn’t until learning through the dialogue that he’s a boy – the title being a nickname he owns. It wasn’t the nickname but the early pigtails that did it.

His encounters with Larry are great, and their friendship feels so right, despite the troubling circumstances. On a handful of occasions, you can listen to some metal tracks by Sanity’s Fall with Larry, and they both headbang to the awesome riffs. It was very Beavis and Butthead, without the tomfoolery.

The humour is there, but it’s subtle, with a few quips at the right time from each character – it’s not a dick and fart adventure. The swearing isn’t overused and used at the right time. Besides, there’s a constant menace throughout – humour gently relieves the tension.

Sally Face PC Review - Burtonesque
Burtonesque. Source: Screen capture

It’s all very 90s MTV, which is a huge compliment, and in the later episodes, the production goes balls-out with varying mediums used to represent Sal. From old school animation to 3D, stop-motion to a Tim Burton signature style, Sally Face has been a thoroughly enjoyable (mis)adventure. It has plenty of replay value, not just for the atmosphere but for the abundance of achievements that offer closure and further insight into the events and characters of this wicked tale.

Sally Face Review Summary

Sally Face gets better as the story unfolds, projecting a bleak yet very satisfying tale of cult groups, tragedy and friendship, with a general bearing that couldn’t be ignored. Immediately after the first episode, I binged the rest and can see why Sally Face is so revered on Steam.

Pros

  • Captivating storytelling.
  • 90s animation vibe throughout.
  • Lots of closure if you invest the time.
  • Achievements are missable = replay value.
  • The music rawks.

Cons

  • I grew tired of the mazes.
  • Some of the puzzles are super hard!
  • Easy to miss unlisted items.
  • The action sequences in the final chapter were a bit simple.