The Collage Atlas review – artistic beauty, average game

The Collage Atlas is a beguiling experience at times. It flows and twists in its own directions, building a world around you with a combination of sound and art. At other times it’s a stodgy, directionless mess, mired with old concepts that don’t quite gel together with the mesmerising aesthetic.

The game plays out in a hand-drawn, monochromatic world. It’s filled with intricate line work renditions of lanterns, butterflies, and pinwheel spinners. It’s undeniably beautiful, and utterly unique. You move through the world with simple controls, and change things mainly by looking at them.

Letters float in the air, and spotting them puts them into dreamy sentences that you collect in the titular atlas. As you unlock more of the story, new mechanics start to spring up. You’re still moving along narrow paths, exploring the world in direct, linear chunks, but you’ll be interacting with things in slightly different ways.

It’s here that things start to unravel a little. One particularly unimaginative section sees you flinging balls of letters into swirling pillars of wind. It’s mechanically clumsy and can get quite frustrating. But worse, it’s jarring, knocking you out of the ethereal jangliness of the rest of the experience. You’ll find yourself wondering why you’re suddenly playing a round of haphazard golf.

And it’s emblematic of the problems that prowl through The Collage Atlas’s gorgeous world. It’s a game that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. It knows that it’s beautiful, it knows that it entrances and sucks you in. But once it’s got your attention, it isn’t quite sure how to hold on. For all of its grace and style, the game lacks the confidence to allow you to simply explore.

You could take a screenshot of almost any moment of The Collage Atlas and you’d probably be able to hang it in a gallery somewhere.

Platforming sections feel floaty and loose, and often you’ll tumble out of the world. The adaptive sounds are sometimes discordant, cracking together and then disappearing just as suddenly. Every attempt the game makes to try something new falls flat, leaving you longing for the simple exploratory bliss of the early parts of the experience.

This is a case of a game struggling under the weight of an identity crisis. It’s never sure-footed, stumbling along with a haphazard gait instead of striding out with the assured confidence that self-awareness brings. It builds a world you want to spend time in, but worries it doesn’t have enough brazen attractions to keep you entertained.

The sad fact is that The Collage Atlas could have been a thing of wonder. When it hits the right notes, they’re pure and perfect, like ringing crystal. When it gets things wrong, it’s more like a cacophony of smashed bottles.


There are plenty of moments in The Collage Atlas that are stunning. One involves a tree wreathed in chains falling from the sky, launching out anchors and a shower of letters. The detail is enough to take your breath away.

Verdict: 54%

The Collage Atlas is a beautiful piece of art, but a pretty average game.

Genre: Adventure
Format: iOS
Developer: John William Evelyn
Publisher: Robot House Games
Price: Free (Apple Arcade)
Release: Out now

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