App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Hindsight is the latest game from the creative mind behind Prune, though you wouldn't necessarily be able to figure that out without someone telling you. In fairness, over the better part of a decade since Prune released (2015) a lot has changed. Funnily enough, Hindsight is all about reacting to changes and processing the past once things aren't what they used to be anymore. It's an ambitious subject matter to tackle and I appreciate Hindsight's willingness to explore the space, even though I don't think it entirely works well.
The story of Hindsight follows a woman who is revisiting her childhood home under tragic circumstances. Her mother has recently passed away, and now she is packing up all of the things left behind, which obviously stirs up a lot of memories and emotions for her.
The game presents this introspection by storing memories in objects, which you as the player activate and flow between by rotating your view around a scene and catching a reflection or shadow that you can tap on to move into. For example, you may see a teapot in kitchen that—at the right angle—reflects a view of the dining room with the woman’s full family family eating dinner years ago. Tapping on that sucks you into that memory where there are other objects that you can manipulate your view of to take you through to even more new memories.
As you bounce between time periods and vignettes through various objects, the woman narrates an internal monologue about her life and her relationships with her parents and how they shifted over the years. You see everything from casual hangouts in the yard to piano recitals and vacations. The story told across all of these scenes is deeply personal and rife with nuance that extends beyond the surface-level tragedy of losing a caregiver.
Similarly, the ways you find paths forward into new memories get increasingly complicated and--at times--fractured between different objects you can explore in any order you want. Between chapters in the game, you also get to choose a single object to pack into your personal bag to take with you, which doubles as a moment of reflection for the player to think back to which aspects of the experience resonate the most with them.
Grief is messy
I appreciate for the kind of storytelling Hindsight aims for. More games should go out and attempt quieter, introspective experiences. That said, there were times where Hindsight's components didn't really click into place.
Most of this happened when a particular puzzle was a bit too obtuse to figure out, killing the momentum and sense of flow between these memories. Some puzzles even resulted in me putting down the game. To my surprise, when resuming the game, Hindsight went ahead and skipped whatever puzzle I was on for me, which was nice, but jarring. There are also some moments where the delivery of the narrator is so flat or overly philosophical that the dramatic aspects of them got muddled or lost.
The bottom line
Hindsight is at its best when you're cascading between memories and objects and following a steady stream of consciousness. When it stops due to trying to spot the right glowing object or because you're trying to parse what the narrator means, it loses some of its magic and feels a lot more like a standard perspective-based puzzle game. Luckily, this doesn't happen too often, and the game has some ability to put you back on track if you find yourself getting derailed by its rougher edges.