Lost Words: Beyond the Page Review
At times you can connect with a video game on a deeply profound and personal level. Not only does it achieve its primary purpose of entertaining the player, but it can also help to explore suppressed emotions, enlightening as well. Lost Words: Beyond the Page is an emotionally charged puzzle platformer that tackles life’s harsh reality in a touching and innovative manner.
Beginning life as Google Stadia timed exclusive, Lost Words: Beyond the Page has made its way to other formats over a year after its initial release. Developed by Sketchbook Games and written by Rhianna Pratchett, this dual narrative tells two stories that center on the life and times of Izzy Cooke. In one portion, you explore the young, imaginative girl’s diary entries, whilst the other focuses on a fantastic fictional tale conceived in the protagonist’s mind.
Life, Love, and Loss
Wandering Izzy’s diary pages is enthralling; her random scribbles, notes, and doodles form the platforming sections’ basis. However, they also act as a narrative tool delving into the protagonist’s psyche, adding emotional depth to these sections. Visually, these areas are stunning. Particular words in the journal are highlighted, and when you cross these, they spawn new elements that progress the narrative. The childlike typography coupled with watercolor sketches helps form a tale about love, family, and loss which is easily relatable. This creates a strong connection between the player and Izzy, as it’s easy to feel for someone struggling to deal with the enormity of the situation they happen to be in.
Parallel to this is the more traditional puzzle platforming segments based on the story of the budding writer, Izzy. In these sections, you are transported to vast and wonderful worlds that are the perfect metaphorical representation of the author’s mental state. Each area is lovingly crafted with stunning backdrops that complement the narrative. Here you use the power of words to manipulate the world around you, solving environmental puzzles to progress. With a click of a button, you can open up your book of words, usually containing 3 to 6 at a time. If you find a broken bridge or archway, you can select repair to restore it to its former glory. Although the conundrums are relatively simple, the mechanics are beautifully intertwined, creating a unique and captivating experience.
Sketchbook Games’ decision to put the narrative at the forefront is commendable. Neither story poses a challenge as the gameplay has been designed to accompany the impeccably constructed narrative, which can be completed in around four hours. For those wanting more, collectibles are dotted around the world to encourage exploration. The majority of these are relatively easy to find, and you will collect them without any effort. The remaining items are well hidden and will require slightly more thought, but there is little replay value even with this incentive.
Izzy and the supporting cast are wonderfully brought to life through the flawless voice acting, adding emotional depth to sequences. Each character acts as a catalyst in supporting the protagonist through her difficult situation. Lump, a delightful flame, symbolizes youth’s curiosity and innocence, whilst the Whaleshark portrays wisdom that comes with age. The diversity of characters works to flesh out Izzy’s personality as we see her morph and develop through the adventure.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page has an incredible plot that is the highlight of the game; however, there are a few performance issues. At times, Izzy’s animations didn’t occur, meaning she stood tall whilst sliding downhill. As well as this, odd glitches transpired during my time, but none of these deterred my experience. My biggest issue is with the protagonist’s movement. Her floaty jump and awkward animations are most prominent in the fantasy sections and can feel a little laborious.
Sketchbook Games have created a truly fascinating experience that sensitively deals with trauma. Even though Lost Words suffers from a few gameplay issues, its narrative carries the game to incredible heights. For those looking for an emotional, grief-ridden title, look no further.
*** Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher ***
- Incredible Narrative
- Innovative Gameplay
- Lovely Art Style
- Little Challenge
- A Few Bugs
- No Replay Value