- Developer: Sketchbook Games
- Publisher: Modus Games
- Release Date: 06/04/2021
- Price: £11.99 / $14.99
- Review code provided by Modus Games
Introducing: Lost Words: Beyond the Page Nintendo Switch Review
Originally a Stadia exclusive, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is now making its way onto consoles. Is this quaint narrative adventure a worthy pick-up? Well, it depends on your perspective.
A Dynamic Duo
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a dual-faceted adventure, told in the words of a wonderfully realistic little girl. The journal segments follow the thoughts and memories of Izzy, our talented little narrator, as she processes life and loss. I found her thought processes beautifully represented and reminiscent of my own experiences, and there were many silent tears streaming down my face as I worked my way through her pain.
More time is spent in the world of Estoria, the setting of Izzy’s story. The protagonist, whose name and some character traits are selectable, has awoken to an amazing sight – she’s been chosen by a sacred Firefly! Unfortunately, this happy occasion is soon ruined by a village tragedy, and Grace (my protagonist) has to set off on an epic adventure to save her home.
There’s a surprising amount of emotion tied into both adventures, and it comes as a real gut punch sometimes. I loved how Izzy’s changing thought patterns and tumultuous feelings were reflected in Grace’s adventure – Rhianna Pratchett did an amazing job with the writing of this one!
The unique mechanics of Lost Words: Beyond the Page were its true stand-out quality. With just hints of puzzle-platforming, both the Journal and Estoria are navigated through a series of running and jumping. In the Journal a small monochrome doodle runs across the pages, using the words and drawings as platforms to navigate to each exit. Some keywords, helpfully indicated by a different font colour, have to be stepped on to advance the text and eventually reveal the door to the next page. Cute little asterisks can also be found – collecting these adds little bits of flavour text to the journal that aren’t necessary to progress, but do add more personality to the page. There are also a few cases where context-specific words can be used to interact with doodle and images, though these are generally easy to figure out.
Estoria is a vibrant, colourful fantasy world with a variety of obstacles to overcome. The basic controls are movement, jumping, and moving items, but the shining star has to be the magic Word Book. Words can be collected and used to manipulate the world around you. For example, if a bridge is broken you could use the word “repair” to fix it and progress or use “silence” to stop a spoken magic spell. I found this mechanic really fun to play with, and it was nice to encounter something I haven’t seen before.
Flawed, but Still Beautiful
I loved the graphical concept of Lost Words: Beyond the Page. The Journal segments make wonderful use of colour, with each page’s watercolour doodles looking truly hand-drawn and sometimes accented with glitter or other artistic enhancements. Unfortunately, the graphics in Estoria aren’t quite as nice. Despite the soft colours, gorgeous scenery, and almost polygonal design, there were a lot of choppy edges and jerky movements that disrupted Estoria’s mystical vibe. With a little spit and polish, however, it could be something truly special.
The sound design, in comparison, was absolutely on-point. With full voice acting and a beautiful soundtrack, every note oozed charm and emotion. Izzy’s voice acting, in particular, had an unparalleled ability to reach into my chest cavity and give the ol’ heartstrings a firm tug. The audio experience was so evocative, and brought so much life to the story, that I’d easily call it the best I’ve ever heard.
While I didn’t notice any control issues in either docked or handheld mode, other than the duck-and-crawl movement being a little finicky, I did find quite a few issues with the graphics. There were times where some of Grace’s body parts turned black but others didn’t, almost as though there were supposed to be some form of lighting effects that hadn’t been implemented properly. I also noticed quite a few instances of jerky movement, both in Grace and in Firefly, whereas other times everything was butter smooth. Nothing was game-breaking, but it was a sad departure from the otherwise heartwarming style.
Easy to Play, Hard to Feel
Lost Words: Beyond the Page wasn’t a hard game. There were moments of slightly fiddly platforming, granted, but there’s no penalty for death other than being returned to the last checkpoint. I was never at a loss for what to do or frustrated with trying to figure something out. In fact, I’d highly recommend the game for younger players as a nice entry-point into platformers and puzzle-solving. If anything, I’d consider the emotional challenge far more difficult to deal with than the gameplay – there are points where Izzy and Grace fall into deep despair, possibly even bordering on depression, as they both come to terms with the losses they’ve endured.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a wonderfully told story about life and loss, with a highly evocative nature forming the core of the whole experience. Unfortunately, while the sound design is absolutely amazing, it’s let down by some rather annoying graphical issues. At approximately 4.5 hours, excluding repeating levels to collect missed fireflies, I’d recommend waiting for this one to go on sale as there’s very little replayability.
- Outstanding sound design and voice acting
- A real emotional gut-punch
- A realistic view of loss from a child’s perspective
- Numerous graphical issues
- A bit short for the price tag