Apple Arcade's newest game tackles the emotions that come with long-distance relationships

A Fold Apart empathizes with your loneliness during social distancing.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
3 min read

The game's style is reminiscent of colorful Pixar films like Up and Inside Out. 

Lightning Rod Games/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

This story is part of CNET's coverage of Apple Arcade, including exclusive first looks we got at some of the service's high-profile new games.

On Friday, Apple Arcade added the new 3D puzzle game A Fold Apart from Lightning Rod Games to its growing catalog of over 100 games you can play as part of Apple's  mobile gaming service, which costs $4.99 a month. The game centers around a couple -- a teacher and an architect -- who, after a career change, must embark on a long-distance relationship. It takes an insightful look at the emotional rollercoaster of navigating a relationship when technology is your main mode of communication -- especially prescient in these times of social distancing. 

A Fold Apart, a Best in Play award winner at the Game Developers Conference 2018, is a narrative-driven game based in a world made of origami folding paper. The game features 50 paper-folding puzzles with a tactile, "homemade" paper aesthetic. 

Lightning Rod Games/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

You can choose which side of the couple best represents you, and literally "unfold" both sides of the story. You'll deal with the complexities of text miscommunications and the emotions that accompany being apart from the people you love. Flip, fold and unfold the paper puzzles in each character's handcrafted world to help them overcome their relationship problems.

The origin of paper

The game's concept is based on a true story, Lightning Rod Games cofounder Mark Laframboise told CNET. Before joining Lightning Rod, Laframboise worked in California while his significant other lived in Ontario. 


"For almost 1.5 years we were living three time zones and almost an entire continent apart -- and it sucked! There were a lot of emotional ups and downs, and it was a very trying time for both of us," Laframboise said.

When Laframboise returned to Ontario and started Lightning Rod Games with cofounder Steven Smith, the pair set to work creating a game that touched on the emotions Laframboise experienced in his long-distance relationship with complementary mechanics. Some months after attending the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC, the idea of two characters -- each living in separate worlds, represented by a sheet of paper -- began to take shape. Folding the paper would reunite the characters.

"I felt that was a perfect metaphor for how it feels to be living in a long-distance relationship -- where you wish you could just mash your two physical locations together -- and it provided the perfect gameplay mechanic to my story idea for a game about a long-distance relationship," Laframboise said.

Lightning Rod Games/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

A Fold Apart entered development in 2015, but the game's theme of maintaining relationships while separated feels especially relevant today. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, we aren't always able to see our loved ones with ease because of social distancing, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders

Plus, gaming is a great way to pass the time spent at home. Laframboise said he hopes that the game can help people navigate difficult emotions to find hope, comfort and fun in these challenging times. 

The art of folding

Laframboise hopes that A Fold Apart will appeal to multiple audiences -- fans of narrative games, puzzle games or those who've experienced long distance relationships (which is technically all of us right now). 

"Our paper folding mechanic is also unique and should appeal to players who really like to explore new ways of interacting with puzzle spaces," Laframboise said. "Flipping, folding, unfolding (and eventually rotating) the paper creates a lot of unique interactions that we think will really delight and challenge puzzle aficionados in ways they have never experienced before."

The game is designed to be played in small chunks with checkpoints, so players can play in short bursts or long sessions, he added. Plus, if players get stuck, there's a built-in hint system to help as little or as much as needed. 

"A Fold Apart is a game very close to our hearts, so, most importantly, we hope that people have fun," Laframboise said.

The game is now available on Apple Arcade, as well as Nintendo Switch and Steam. It will so be coming to PS4 and Xbox One as well.

The Apple Arcade gaming service debuted last September. You can play games on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod Touch and Apple TV.

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