It’s easy to find yourself emotionally invested in some video game stories, especially when they touch on topics that feel a little close to home. It’s something I felt when playing through Sketchbook Games’ narrative-focused adventure Lost Words: Beyond the Page, with its tale driven by the life of a young girl and the fantasy world that she crafts through her own storytelling.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page puts players in the role of Izzy, a young girl who has aspirations to be a famous writer. She demonstrates this by creating a character (of whom you’ll also get to play as) who lives in a magical world, with Izzy’s inspirations for this setting driven by her own emotions. Whilst creative and hopeful at first, a tragic event in Izzy’s own life sees her creations adopt a more sombre tone, which is something players will get to see play out as they progress through the story.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect Lost Words: Beyond the Page to tackle so many emotional topics before I started playing it. It’s not a complaint by any stretch of the imagination; there was something so believable and relatable about Izzy’s woes, whilst the brilliant writing of the game made it easy to get hooked into the tale being told. It just left me feeling a little sad at times, especially since the player becomes more immersed into those emotions through the actual gameplay.
It’s a little difficult to describe it that well in words… it’s something that’s best experienced through actually playing the game. Either way, the storytelling of Lost Words: Beyond the Page is done really well and it’s easy to root for the likable pair of characters.
The gameplay of Lost Words: Beyond the Page plays out from two different perspectives: that of Izzy as she writes in her journal and that of the heroine that she creates for her fantasy world.
When playing from Izzy’s perspective in her journal, players will control a small girl as she leaps between the words being written. Sounds peculiar, right? Well, it actually works really well and makes for an intriguing form of interactive storytelling, with Izzy narrating the journey as you leap over her sentences. The goal is to reach the words that are written in colour, which will then see some minor interactions take place such as a pretty watercolour picture forming or additional words emblazon the pages of the journal.
You’ll even get the chance to fill in blank spaces when playing through the journal, with the choices you make affecting how the game plays out. This is most obvious when Izzy is brainstorming to come up with the characters for her fantasy story, with the player able to determine the name, dress colour, and personality of the heroine. Whilst some of these choices you make don’t necessarily affect the gameplay too much, it’s nice to have some input into the tale – especially since the journal sections do focus primarily on storytelling.
When playing as the heroine (who I named Robyn) things take a more traditional approach, with the player travelling across a fantasy setting full of peculiar characters and wonderful sights. However, whilst she’ll be running, jumping, and solving puzzles as she explores the land, the power of words is still ever-present. Robyn will learn words that she can summon in order to alter the environment, whether that’s to ‘repair’ an object, ‘break’ an obstacle in her path, or even ‘rise’ objects into the air, just to name a few. It’s a neat idea that works well with the theme of the game, though I must admit that the limited selection of words at your disposal did make it a bit easy to figure out what you needed to do at any given time. It didn’t feel like it added a real puzzle-like element to Lost Words: Beyond the Page, but rather just give players an additional way to interact with the world.
You’ll also get to lead a small firefly around to alter words in the environment to help open up pathways for Robyn, whilst each area also brings with it hidden fireflies to collect. Admittedly, most of these are easy to come by, but it does encourage players to experiment a little when exploring and go off the main path. Again, it’s neat to have these extras to dive into, but Lost Words: Beyond the Page is so simple in design that neither demands much effort from the player.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a pretty simple game overall really, but I never grew bored during my time playing it. It’s only about three to four hours long in total so the gameplay mechanics don’t grow stale, whilst the unique form of storytelling certainly kept me immersed in what was going on. It just lacks a little depth as far as exploration is concerned, with the game feeling more like an interactive story as opposed to a bona fide adventure. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you were hoping for some wild fantasy escapade full of challenging platforming and puzzling.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page offers a touching narrative that’s complimented by some simple yet satisfying word-based adventuring. You shouldn’t expect much of a challenge from your journey, but rather an intriguing take on storytelling that brings with it some clever interactions from the player.
I’ll admit that I do wish that it could’ve offered a bit more depth with its word-based puzzling mechanics, but there’s still a good (and certainly emotional) time to be had with Lost Words: Beyond the Page.
Developer: Sketchbook Games
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
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