Lost Words: Beyond the Page sometimes feels like two games tied together by a single thread. On the one hand, we have gentle, easy platforming as we dance a sprite across the scribbles hidden in a young girl’s journal entries.
On the other, we have the exploration of a fantasy world within a fantasy world – Estoria, a magical land of that young girl’s invention.
Isabelle, our young protagonist, might not seem like the world’s most relatable lead, but what Izzy shares with the pages of her journal should, sadly, be familiar to us all. This casual, gentle adventure meanders between the memoir and make-believe land, but I was happiest when I was bouncing over the words of the former.
As pretty as Estoria is, the animation and evocative storytelling of the journalling sections is vastly superior; I’ll admit that at times, I rushed through my time in Estoria to return to the inventive platforming and stunning visuals of Izzy’s thoughts.
Both worlds, however, put the power of words at their heart. In the journal segments, we can rip out words and reposition them to help us move on (literally – we can use them as platforms to take us on to the next page). In Estoria, we use them as magic spells, commanding the environment around us to do our biding – Rise! Break! Silence!
They’re painfully simple puzzles though – even for beginners acclimatising to video game logic for the first time – and as such, they often feel nowt more than busywork. Still, at least the journey takes us to myriad beautiful places before spinning towards its powerful, poignant climax.
It’s because of its simple mechanics, gentle puzzling, and emotional journey that I suspect Lost Words won’t appeal to everyone. But while I, too, can admit to a little cynicism at games that intentionally – maliciously – pull at your heartstrings, Lost Words is an authentic, if sorrowful, tale.
And while it might be best enjoyed by a young adult audience new to gaming (not dissimilar to its sibling Stadia exclusive, GYLT), it’s certainly not exclusively so. I’ll admit to a tear in my eye as the credits rolled; it’s a harder heart than mine that can listen to the pain in the voice of our young narrator and not be moved by her grief.
While it might have been stronger if it’d dispensed with the Estoria sequences altogether, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is an enchanting, thoughtful adventure. If you roll your eyes at ‘walking simulators’, or need complex puzzling then this likely isn’t for you.
However, if you have an evening free and are open to thoughtful, emotional storytelling, you could do a lot worse than take a page out of Izzy’s book.
While you can complete Lost Words in a single sitting without heading off the beaten path at all, try to grab the optional asterisks in the journal segments if you can. They spice Izzy’s tale with additional flavour that make her words, and reactions, feel ever more authentic.
A moving, if uncomplicated, narrative adventure.
Developer: Sketchbook Games
Publisher: Modus Games
Release:__ Out now