Title: Lost Words: Beyond the Page
Developer: Sketchbook Games, Fourth State
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Modus Games
Lost Words: Beyond the Page provides an interesting experience to players through a well-thought narrative that offers moments of gripping scenarios. However, this is paired with straightforward puzzle platforming that holds the experience back. Through its colorful design, I still found a lot to enjoy about this heartwarming adventure.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is split between two different gameplay modes. We are first introduced to Izzy, a girl who aspires to be a writer, and then we dive into the pages of the book she is writing. Each chapter has you navigating through her journal as she writes about daily life and her grandmother. This story is set in her real life and tackles many hard-hitting topics you initially don’t expect.
During these segments, you navigate on top of the words as she writes them. Some words are colored differently, and by standing on top of them, a change in the journal occurs. It can be as simple as making a picture appear or prompting Izzy to continue to the next part of her story. In these sections, you merely travel from page to page as the story is told to you.
Following the journal section, you will move onto more fantasy-driven scenarios that involve magic. This is a much more traditional portion of the game where you move the character along, solve puzzles, and jump through environments. Still, it never lets you forget that the story is being written as you play. Words that the narrator speaks show up in the world. This gives provides the same unique atmosphere as the journal sections despite being dramatically different.
The presentation even extends to making choices during these moments as a piece of the world is ripped out, revealing the notebook paper behind it with three options to choose from. These choices will change motivations and even the main character’s appearance. I found this clever as if the author is brainstorming ideas rather than utilizing simple UI options. It also gives the game some level of replayability as you try out different options to see how drastically the story can change.
The way you select the option is also unique in that you control a little ball of light that the main character calls a firefly. This extends to both gameplay sections as it’s used to solve platforming puzzles by moving words around. Players can also control words to change their surroundings, known as “Word Magic.” For example, the word rise will cause items to lift, and words like break will destroy an item to allow passage. As you continue through the story, words will be added and erased from the book. You will always have the exact right words for any situation in each area.
Any object that can be affected by a word will have a blue, glowing aura. This tells you right away what needs to be done. This is also where the puzzles begin to show how repetitive they are. You simply walk forward until you see a glowing object use a word then proceed. This repeats throughout the entire game until the conclusion. There is also no reason to experiment with the words as if it’s not glowing; it can’t be affected.
Exploration suffers greatly from this the most. There are collectibles to be snapped up in the form of other fireflies scattered by the antagonist. While there are 20 in each area, you won’t have to look far to find them all, creating little need for any exploration during the stages. For instance, without much exploration, I was able to collect over 90% of them.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page feels less like a game and more like an interactive graphic novel. The narrative is engaging and fun to witness, but it can become dull as it suffers from a repetitive gameloop. There still something worth discovering here as the story beats and systems provide a decent experience overall, but this will likely only be magical for one playthrough.
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