Jack is the sole survivor of a bloody massacre at an asylum testing an experimental drug for memory recovery. Now held captive by his doctor, he must access the lost memories in his mind to find out what really happened. Solve the deaths of the asylum occupants, retrace Jack’s path to the asylum, and find out what the experimental drug really does to the patients, in The Butterfly Sign.
Format: PC via Steam
First playthrough time: 2 hours
In The Butterfly Sign, players choose one of four difficulty modes to travel through Jack’s memory of the Memority asylum and figure out how the occupants died. The difficulty level affects what computers are password protected and how long the player can hold ‘concentration’ to highlight important objects. I used the Practitioner difficulty (2 out of 4), and never used concentration, but didn’t find all the computer passwords either. Most of the areas were sparse on interactable objects except for lockers, which never had anything of note in them.
To investigate a death, players first find a corpse and then interact with clues nearby. With each clue, the player selects from a list of options what they think happened. Sparks mean a correct guess, although this isn’t terribly clear until the player gets something wrong and has the incorrect guess reaction to compare to. None of the deaths are complicated and most can be solved without even looking at all the clues. While I enjoyed solving the deaths of the people in the asylum, there were far too few of them to be a real focus for the game and they were far too simple.
While walking around Jack’s memory of the asylum, dialog can be activated with Dr. Romanov, Jack’s physician who’s overseeing his (maybe not voluntary) memory retrieval procedure. He provides more background into the asylum, but players can’t re-ask him any questions even when the game keeps prompting them to talk to him and they’ve already asked him everything for that area. Dialog options also randomly show up for talking about a church and combination lock even though they aren’t visible, and the player never interacts with said combination lock.
The controls of The Butterfly Sign are somewhat janky. Sometimes the player can run and sometimes they can’t, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it. Occasionally interactable items can be triggered through solid objects while other times minor bumps on the floor can’t be walked over. The biggest frustration for me was the diode puzzles, where if any piece was placed incorrectly the puzzle had to be restarted because there was no way to remove pieces. Diode puzzles also required repetitive clicking since there was no drag-and-drop of pieces onto the board.
The visuals of The Butterfly Sign had some very pretty moments, mostly when outside the asylum. Inside, where most of the game takes place, I experienced frame drops, lag, and freezing alongside glitches such as the floor being missing, or water or glass effects being in the wrong place. I also would’ve liked to have been able to turn off motion blur and head bob, but that might just be me. On the audio side, the voice acting for Jack and Kira was pretty ‘meh’ and I couldn’t get over the fact the footstep sound effect made it seem like Jack was walking around in high heels.
The story of The Butterfly Sign is intriguing but jumps around unexpectedly. One moment Jack might be in his memory of the asylum and the next in his memory of his house. Other parts of the story simply seem illogical, like who would build a giant stone asylum on the top of a snow-covered mountain? It’s purposely unclear what Jack’s role in the asylum is, but it becomes clearer through documents and audio tapes left behind. He’s also able to see shadows of people that were in the asylum and hear brief sound effects when he gets close to them. Unfortunately, the story is left unfinished. The Butterfly Sign ends after chapter 1 and the series has since been abandoned by the developers.
Overall, I found the concept of The Butterfly Sign intriguing but was disappointed in the execution. Audio, visuals, and controls all had issues. The puzzles were simple, and the environment lacked enough interactable objects. Given these issues and general lack of positive feedback, I’m not surprised the developer decided not to continue the series. The Butterfly Sign is an interesting premise, but I can only recommend it to players as a concept piece or to upcoming developers as a case study.