The Butterfly Sign Game Review

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

A dark hallway cluttered with bent metal shelves and lockers.
Released December 13th, 2016 by Quantum Phoenix Studio | Quantum Phoenix

Quick Overview

Major Pros:

  • Interesting concept and story premise
Major Cons:

  • Lacking interactable objects
  • Only simple deaths to investigate
  • Series abandoned by the developer
Minor Pros:

  • Some nice mountain top scenery
Minor Cons:

  • Visual glitches
  • Somewhat janky controls
  • ‘Meh’ voice acting
I am only what I remember. Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
This quote describes the themes of The Butterfly Sign well

In-depth Review

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.

Desk covered in books and papers. One book is open and one notable paper shows a weekly report on a biomechanics company.
None of these documents can be interacted with

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.

Disgusting bathroom with a male corpse on the floor. Magnifying glass symbols float around the corpse. Floating text over the corpse details how to gather clues around a corpse and that it's necessary to interact with all the objects to progress.
The first death recreation

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.

Dr. Romanov says: This asylum belongs to a very rich man, and he won't be happy hearing that the work of his life and millions of budget have gone to waste... But you can prove you are innocent. Rammex will help you. It will immerse you deep into your mind and restore everything that happened...
Dr. Romanov guides Jack through the remembering process

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.

Dirty corridor lit by sparse electric lights. Dust hangs in the air and a metal gate waits open at the end.
I’m sure all sane people would also walk down this hallway!

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.

Sunlight streams through trees onto a stone path between large boulders.
Much more appealing than the creep asylum!

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.

The Butterfly Sign. Chapter One: Necessary Evil
A shame to end there, but without a lot of TLC it wasn’t going anywhere

Recommendation

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.

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