There is a classic The Simpsons bit in which Grampa is telling Lisa that death stalks them at every turn. He then goes on to call out both Maggie and a cat as “death.” While Abe was a bit off, his statements apply perfectly to A Rose in the Twilight. This is a dark game where death could lurk around every turn, and it embraces and exemplifies that in every way.
It begins with a very distinct atmosphere. A Rose in the Twilight takes place in a stopped world. Everything is monochromatic, save the blood that allows things trapped in time to act again. Players follow a cursed young woman named Rose, who can absorb this blood and transfer it or used the thorns from the rose on her back to kill herself, and a giant with thorns on its arms around the castle as they search for answers. The contrast between things that can and can’t move or act is quite distinct, illustrating the difference between action and inaction.
Everything is very controlled and precise. Rose and the giant must go from room to room, with both needing to reach the exit to proceed. Neither character can run. The cursed Rose delicately and carefully moves. She even falters easily, collapsing in a heap after dropping or being thrown even a small distance and needing a moment to regroup and stand again. The giant lumbers along; it is unable to jump far, but can lift and throw easily. A Rose in the Twilight sets a pace, purposely making you follow it.
Puzzles do their best to prepare you for the fragility of life as well. A Rose in the Twilight’s castle is a very dangerous place for young Rose. Within the first few rooms, it becomes very clear how easy it is for this young woman to die. In my first hour, she died from falling into a bottomless pit, dropping too far, being crushed by small rocks, being crushed by a platform lowering onto her, being smashed against spikes by a platform rising, being bowled over by a larger rock, misusing a newly discovered gimmick and falling into a hole she couldn’t escape unless I made her sacrifice herself. In some cases, you may only realize danger lies ahead by experiencing it and allowing the worst to happen to Rose.
The atmospheric elements do as well. Why are a few things moving in this castle? Because the blood of the fallen coats them. There were once other people who lived here. It’s up to Rose and her companion to reach these unfortunate souls, all of them remaining in their resting places. Absorbing their blood so you can proceed through rooms and unlock doors is not only necessary to proceed, but is also a means of learning about the state of affairs. Absorbing blood from these victims allows A Rose in the Twilight players to see their final moments and understand what’s going on.
Even the scrolls explaining A Rose in the Twilight’s mechanics touches upon the more melancholy elements of the game while teaching you how to play. It’s Rose herself telling you what you need to know. In one early informational scroll, the one received after learning how to forcibly reset and appear at the last save point, she graphically explains how this process works and ponders her own possible immortality, given how often she’s had to use it. It’s haunting.
To be honest, that’s a good way to describe the game in general. Anyone heading into A Rose in the Twilight should know they’re getting themselves into a haunting experience. There will be blood. You might even read descriptions or see shadowy reenactments of unfortunate incidents. Rose is going to die, both intentionally and unintentionally, because of your actions. However, those who preserve and don’t let that hold them back will find a way to move forward and find the answers Rose and her giant friend are seeking.