Lost Words: Beyond the Page review
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Lost Words: Beyond the Page review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on May 24th, 2023
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: MORE THAN WORDS
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This narrative platformer has some affecting visual design that make an otherwise bumpy road feel worth going down.

Developer: Sketchbook Games

Price: Free
Version: 1.0.6
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Media about writers and writing usually rub me the wrong way unless actual writing is prominently featured and said writing is good. Either that, or have the words being featured be those of a child who aspires to be a professional writer. This is how Lost Words: Beyond the Pageframes its reflective story about loss, and--while I appreciate some of its ambition and clarity of thought--the game overall does suffer from some various little issues that detract from the experience.

Fact and fiction

Lost Words tells the story of a young girl at a pivotal moment in her life by alternating between journal entries and chapters of a fantasy story she is working on. You control an avatar of this girl as she hops from line to line in her journal or acts as the stand-in protagonist in her fantasy land.

Moving through both storylines involves some light platforming and puzzle-solving using a virtual joystick and two invisible buttons that allow you to jump or open a book of words that cast spells based on their meaning (rise, break, repair, etc.). Most of the gameplay is strictly a vehicle for storytelling, though, as there is constant narration throughout the experience that weaves together both worlds to explore love, loss, and coming of age.

Visual novel

One of the most striking things about Lost Words is its visual design. To be clear, I am not referring to the game's graphical fidelity but rather how the game often finds inventive and powerful ways to enhance the narration or words on the page through other elements taking place on screen. Changes in light, pauses in the action, and shifts of perspective lurk around every corner ready to pack an emotional punch into moments that might otherwise land with a thud.

These touches ended up being the primary driving force for me to see Lost Words through to the end, as the platforming can be occasionally buggy and otherwise pretty dull, the story itself is somewhat predictable in terms of its primary arc and otherwise erratic about getting from point to point, and there isn't a whole lot of experimentation happening when it comes to its puzzles.

Stilted stoytelling

For the most part, Lost Words gets away with having some lackluster writing as it is a story told from the perspective of a child. But this only really creates cover for the hackneyed prose and not other issues with the overall storytelling.

There are times when Lost Words seems to meander in circles unnecessarily before leaping to places seemingly randomly. The result is a pace that is hard to get a read on and can make the experience drag out. It also doesn't help that there are some various minor bugs in the game that can occasionally make events fail to trigger and narration lines bleed over one another. And then there's also an issue where a blank menu pops up between every scene in the game, presumably asking you to rate and review the game. I am not sure if its pop up frequency is on purpose or not, but in either case it is quite annoying and doesn't even work.

The bottom line

Despite all of the barriers that chop up the flow of Lost Words, I still found myself enjoying it. The visual touches used to enhance its emotional weight are done with a care that I'd like to see in more games of this nature, and the rest of the experience serviceable enough to make seeing its high notes easy enough to do.

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