Lost words:Beyond the Page Review. The power of words.


 


For years people have used videogames as a story telling tool and with the rise of indie development some unique approaches have been taken in dealing with some heavy subjects such as depression, anxiety and other trauma. Sometimes it can feel a bit contrived.  I heard someone once say that indie game,  that someone is either dead or will die. Also known as the Disney syndrome. A cheap way to invoke emotion that does not always feel earned. Lost Word: Beyond the page does not seem to lean so much in the trauma itself as it does into the emotions people, especially children have when going through traumatic events beyond their control.

What is it?

Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a narrative-driven, atmospheric puzzler set inside the pages of a young girl’s diary. There two worlds intertwined through the journal. The girls thoughts and the story she is writing about a young heroine who is on her own adventure in the magical land of Estoria. Along the way the two stories intertwine with each other as the narrative is driven forward. A lot of the gameplay is set around the use of and interaction with words, appropriate since the main character wants to become a writer. Along the way things in her world and that of her story change as she has to cope with challenges in her daily life. These events evoke emotions and form thoughts you help shape as you follow along. How does one deal with feeling helpless? Break through mind numbing sadness or raging anger. Lost words tries to answer these questions together with the player.


Gameplay

Controller or Mouse + KB. But it comes down to controlling your character with one hand and a firefly with the other. 

Puzzles and challenges are solved with a few jumps , a pull or push action through a button and direction combo or using magic words that are stored in a journal. These word change depending on the chapter of the story. You use them by having the firefly drag them to an object on screen. For instance a closed gate can RISE up and a broken bridge can be made functional again with some REPAIR.

The game is a platformer. But it is not a difficult one. If you do manage to fail because you got a little to careless the story's protagonist and narrator mumbles to them selves " No No that is not how the story goes!" and  you start over right at that point. Do-overs are quick and simple.
Though the gameplay is not overly complicated it feels a deliberate choice to enable also younger children to play, and to focus on the importance of the story and the emotions it is starting to invoke. It is about the journey. One that still feels unique and different due to the word mechanic being used.

Between each adventure in Estoria you are narrated the thoughts of the main character but instead of just a cutscene or a test box you get to navigate a little character over each word and interact with them in many different ways, like a little platform game on its own. In some cases you select a thought, in other cases you use a words to action something like opening a door, or clean a room. Little colorful words and asterisks activate other areas on the page of the journal as  you make your way across to the next page. 

Throughout the levels you also collect fireflies hidden in the levels, which will be used at the end of the game. Though I was not able to collect them all I was still able to complete the game at the end However I still would like to collect them all to see if it makes a difference or at least for my own satisfaction. 



Presentation

For a game that leans hard into the story telling aspect of the medium it is important that it comes with good writing. And the game nails that with a story penned by Rhianna Pratchett, a video game writer and journalist who has worked on various games such as Heavenly Sword, and Tomb Raider. And yes she is the daughter of late fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett.  The world created both for the main protagonist as well as her fantasy word are both well thought out and the way that it conveys the struggles of the girl and how they bleed over into her fantasy world work so well they often hit me right in the feels as they say. Many of the emotions and thoughts echoed those I have had myself as a child and as an adult. It made it so easy to empathize with the story and that little girl. As the game gives  you small choices throughout the story it also made me feel even more involved, the story was a part of me because I got to steer certain moments to how it made me feel.   



Though not a graphical powerhouse the game offers an almost watercolor art style where emotion and atmosphere convey the story and the unique moments within. Some are bright and colorful and other moments are somber and dreary based on the moments in the story. Besides the platform portions in Estoria, the way the game has you interact with the diary was very unique and involving. It allows for a story to be told without having to cram it in a cutscene or reading long wall of text. The text became the game, which was the story. And interacting with it was very interesting. I did encounter a few graphical glitches one was my heroine being stuck crouched when running or sliding, not a big deal. But the other was a bit more annoying for me as the game kept resizing to a smaller window for each scene/chapter. As a result I would have to pause the game each time, open the menu, change the video settings to the right resolution and full screen and continue playing. It felt quite disruptive to the story and I hope it gets patched. 

All this story telling is highly complimented by a beautiful score from BAFTA, and Ivor Novello nominated composer David Housden which moves from elated to adventurous, dramatic, mysterious and more with such ease and poise that it always seemed to strike the right tone on the right moment. Everything in the game is balanced to work together and it does a marvelous job at it.



Final Thoughts

Coming in at a playtime of around four hours, Lost words: Beyond the Page is a short game. But in that short time it managed to unpack a lot of things in term of emotion, feelings, challenges in life as you grow up and as a grown up. It deals with loss and moving on. Not to be buried in the darker side of your feelings but face your fears and dealing with your guilt.I truly feel that Lost words is a great game to play with the family and become a great conversation starter about life, loss and how to deal with the emotions that come with it. It is a 4 hour experience maybe for some even therapeutic of sorts. If all my descriptions of emotions and dealing with them make it sound that this game is a dark somber story that will suck you dry and spits you out beat and broken then you are misunderstanding me completely. Despite its theme of loss the game actually fills you with warmth, and hope instead. If you like to play games that are more of an experience then you can do no wrong in giving this a look over. It is up to you if you think $15 is a reasonable price for that. But if you are looking for a deep platforming adventure then this game is not the one to get.   


Game information
Developer: Sketchbook Games
Publisher: Modus Games
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Platforms: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Steam / Nintendo Switch
Review platform:  PC ( Steam)
Genre: Puzzle-Adventure Platformer
ESRB: E for Everyone
Website: https://www.lostwordsgame.com

No comments

Powered by Blogger.