Of all the artforms out there, videogames have the richest selection of genres and the widest range of appeal. Aside from big blockbusters that have a broader audience, there are also some shorter, more impactful experiences to be found which is tailor made for a niche audience.
And every so often there comes a game that represents videogames as a true form of art, just as legitimate as a music track, a movie or a painting, if not more so. Something all works of art have in common is the ability to effortlessly evoke strong emotions on the one experiencing it.
Lost Words is one of those games that is set out evoke a myriad of emotions. Armed with a unique setting that sees two stories told in parallel and a relatable and heart-warming message it wants to convey, Lost Words is set to deliver quite the experience. But will a great setting and story be enough for a game to be enjoyable? Let’s find out. This is the review of Lost Words: Beyond the page.
You might be interested to read iXie Gaming’s in-depth review of Desperados III
Told from the perspective of a young girl named Izzy, Lost Words is a story driven puzzle platformer that deals with some heavy yet relatable themes. You will find Izzy chronicling the events of her life in a journal, while also writing a story of her own which reflects her current real-life situation.
However, the developers’ choice to emphasise on story and narrative aspect of the over gameplay is where the game creates an identity for itself. We will get to the nitty-gritty of gameplay in a bit, but the game is best suited for young children like the game’s protagonist itself, to be played alongside a parent so the story is best conveyed, and something is learnt out of the experience by both the child and the adult.
As such, the game is meant for all ages thanks to how relatable the events in stories are. With that said let’s discuss more about…
This is a department where Lost Words does not shine the brightest. While it is a puzzle platformer there is little in the form of a challenge as the player navigates through the pages of Izzy’s journal or her imaginative world of Estoria.
The journal part of the game has you jump and hop through pages, quite literally, with words and sentences acting as platforms and as triggers to activate real-time animations that convey the story visually which in turn help with the pacing of Izzy’s narration in the background.
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And that’s about as deep as the gameplay gets in the journal sections of the game. But, despite the barebones gameplay in the journal sections, the events on screen kept me hooked enough to push through to the end.
And then there is Estoria, a fully realized world in which Izzy sets the story she writes. Estoria features a protagonist (the name, look and character trait of whom you choose) who embarks on an adventure. She is armed with a magic book with certain words that perform real actions in the world. The word “rise” would lift platforms, for example, and “hope” would lighten up dark areas and so on. While this sounds very clever on paper, the implementation of these mechanics is barebones at best.
There was never a puzzle that required me to combine the ability of two or more words at the same time, which I truly feel is a missed opportunity. But despite these shortcomings, the gameplay never got boring as there was enough to take in visually. And I started to realise the reason why the developers chose to keep the lacking gameplay as the story went on. So let’s discuss a little more about the…..
If it weren’t apparent already, this is where Lost Words excels. Without giving much away, I want to say that both Izzy and Robyn’s (the name I chose for the character in Estoria) stories are ones about love, loss and how we as humans learn to cope with those losses and come out stronger.
The perspective of a young girl with childlike innocence makes this story that much more effective and poignant. The story, particularly in the journal section, works because it isn’t about a hero saving the world, or a battle between good and evil.
What we witness here are everyday occurrences like having a conversation with your grandparents, birthday parties, or a day at the beach. So much of it is relatable to so many of us in real life, even the sad and difficult moments in the story.
The events in Lost words can easily be contextualised with events in our life and thanks to Izzy’s voice this can be conveyed to children and help them learn about difficult situations in life and how they need to be handled. And the moment I realized this; the lacking gameplay made sense to me. This is a story for both children and adults alike.
A story-driven game can be effective only if it is accompanied by a good score and decent voice acting. And the musical score and sound design in Lost Words help nail the mood and atmosphere of story perfectly. With gentle melodies during the journal sections and more dramatic scores in the Estoria sections, the music sells the story rather effectively.
And so does the voice acting for Robyn, and most notably Izzy. The range of emotions conveyed through the voice effortlessly mimics that of an 8 or 10-year-old child and this performance goes a long way in making us connect with this very human story.
Lost Words is one of those games which may not be for everyone but should be experienced by all. What it lacks in gameplay complexity, it more than makes up for with a touching story and great soundtrack. This game will no doubt have people split and will mostly belong in the “You either love it or hate it” category.
I for one love this game. And so does my 10-year-old daughter who is currently experiencing Robyn’s adventures. If you appreciate videogames as a medium of art, or if you like story-based games in general and have 5ish hours to spare, please experience the journey that is Lost Words: Beyond the page.
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By Uma Raj
By Uma Raj
By Abishek Balakumar
Ishaq is a Senior Test Engineer and Games enthusiast with 8 years of experience. He breathes videogames and when doesn’t play he likes to talk or write about them.