Often, we look back on memories from our past and reminisce; we remember the good, the bad, and everything between. But sometimes memories can change, and our perception of them can alter as we grow older, especially when those memories are attached to a person who has passed away.
As a result, we often start to consider whether we truly knew that person and whether, moving forward, we will remember them in a way that truly honors them. It’s this concept that Hindsight, the newest game from Annapurna Interactive, pushes as its key focus; the idea that as we look back, we can sometimes learn something new about our loved ones.
Throughout, we sift through the memories of its protagonist as she returns to her childhood home after her mother’s passing. As she’s packing away her mother’s belongings, she starts to look back on her upbringing and how her mother treated her throughout those bygone years. We witness everything from the moment our protagonist is born to the present day when she’s a fully matured adult.
Naturally, the tone is mournful and melancholic from the get-go. While positive memories are explored, the pain of the protagonist as she comes to terms with her mother’s passing is ever-present. Even the more positive memories are tinged with a sense of sadness. There’s nothing too dramatic or harrowing here, but a heavy mood hangs over the proceedings.
Of course, this somber tone will not be for everyone; many people see video games as an escape from reality, and the sort of realistic, relatable scenario presented isn’t going to be super appealing.
For those who look to games for the emotional and insightful stories they can tell, however, this does a wonderful job weaving together the different events of this woman’s life and illustrating her relationship with her mother. Even moments early on that seem to deviate towards other subjects become incredibly important to piecing everything together.
As simple as they are, the ideas that Hindsightpresents are wonderfully poignant and definitely feel very personal. It’s easy to imagine that this game was created as a labor of love, and it’s clear there was a strong desire to share this story with people worldwide.
This would mean nothing if the gameplay was clumsy or unintuitive. But it manages to avoid this. Through camera rotation, clicking, and dragging objects, the player can move through scene after scene, memory after memory. The interactive objects are easy to spot.
This is partly due to the simplistic art style that coats Hindsight. The bold color choices allow items of interest to pop out easily with the simplistic shading. While they don’t hamper the experience, I don’t think the visual style enhances it. However, each scene’s composition adds to the theme of perspective and hindsight.
And in terms of audio, the soundtrack does a lot for the mood and atmosphere of each scene. Appropriately gloomy and somber, there’s a good use of leitmotif and the use of piano ties well into the narrative. Along with this, the ever-present narration is nice, adding a further mournful vibe to the story. The performance is subtle but emotional where it counts. It even fills in for the moments where the character models aren’t as dynamic as they perhaps could be.
That is to say, the faces of the characters do emote, but there isn’t too much in the way of authentic expression. It doesn’t ruin any scene either, and I could easily imagine that this was because of the artistic vision of the project; this isn’t a drama, after all, and real life tends to be more subtle than fiction. There were just certain moments where I wish they could have leaned into the benefits of the medium more to make key scenes hit even harder.
I also hoped that interactive moments were more common, and in one scene, there is an attempt to inject some puzzle solving into the overall structure, but this doesn’t persist throughout the entire game.
While the focus on the narrative experience is vital, it would have been nice to see more of these moments throughout the rest of the game as well, to increase the runtime or add some value to the overall package, to maybe help spread this story outside of its usual niche.
As it stands, Hindsight clocks in at about two hours, and a part of me thinks the price is too steep for something you can finish so quickly. As a game that is ultimately very linear, too, without any kind of side content outside of achievements, there’s very little to bring you back for a second playthrough. But on the other hand, I think that as an emotional journey, it’s just about worth the money.
Your mileage depends on how you feel about games simply being an experience. The rise of indie game development has given a platform to anyone who has a story to tell and the passion for seeing it through, which I think is terrific. Recently, we’ve seen plenty of games like Hindsight, and the great thing about them is they all offer something different to those willing to take the dive.
Hindsight offers a look into a life that could very easily be one of our own. It’s a glimpse into a very personal subject that many people can relate to and handles it with maturity and grace. As a game, it offers a short, bittersweet ride that might be too costly for some. But as an ‘experience,’ it delivers satisfying emotional catharsis and is a poignant reminder that we don’t always know the whole story regarding our friends and family.
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