Viewfinder is so creative and clever in design that it hurts my head to even try to understand just *how* the team at Sad Owl Studios managed to pull it off. It also just so happens to be one of the best puzzlers I’ve played this year, with the game’s enthralling puzzle design and wonderful world sure to keep the keenest fans of the genre in awe.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Viewinder puts players into a peculiar and vibrant world that they’re able to manipulate in a unique way: through the power of the images you find around you. Yep, that might sound a little bit curious to read, but you’re actually able to hold the likes of photograph, paintings, and so forth up to the world and have them magically manifest in front of you, essentially merging the image with your surroundings. This means you can navigate through them or interact with objects within them, which can open up new pathways around you as you look to complete your goal in each level.
It’s kind of tricky to put into words just how clever it all is, because Viewfinder is one of those games that’s better to be played in order to appreciate the ingenuity of it all. Seeing a photo essentially come to life in front of you for the first time is bedazzling, whilst the more vibrant sights you bring into the world as you progress ensure there’s always something unique to explore. It gives players plenty of freedom as to how they want to bring the 2D image into a 3D space too, whether that’s when using them to open up pathways, to construct a makeshift bridge to get from one space to another, or simply to uncover the wonderful sights they offer. You can place each image EXACTLY how you want, with no real risk of ‘breaking’ a level (though the freedom does mean you can find some creative ways to skip puzzles through more unconventional means).
“With all of its creative ideas, the satisfying sense of progress, and the fact that the puzzling mechanics are so fun to embrace, I found myself blown away by Viewfinder.”
There are plenty of other little things going on to ensure players are kept challenged as they progress, such as being able to take their own photographs of the environment which they can carefully place in the environment (these are limited so you can’t abuse the system too much), use a photocopier to duplicate images, or find a way to merge together split images to make them whole again. There are a lot of unique ways in which puzzles are presented, whilst some of the images you use to progress later in the game felt especially creative, with nods to pop culture and gaming found on your adventure.
And if things do go a bit pear-shaped? You can rewind time to rectify your errors. Whilst Viewfinder’s puzzles are all very clever in design, they also bring with them an element of trial-and-error as you try to figure out how best to use the environment and each image to your advantage. If you make a mistake, you can simply rewind time and try to work out where you went wrong. It ensures no puzzle of the game ever gets frustrating, and whilst there will be moments where you might be completely stumped as to what you might need to do, your rewinding ability ensures your experimentation to find a solution is never punished.
Check out some screenshots down below:
With all of its creative ideas, the satisfying sense of progress, and the fact that the puzzling mechanics are so fun to embrace, I found myself blown away by Viewfinder. Sure, I’ll admit that I might’ve been a bit naughty and exploited some tricks to get through some challenging areas, but I still found myself completing everything the game had to offer – including the optional puzzles. There are even a myriad of different collectibles to find across levels, so there’s an incentive in place to REALLY explore your surroundings if you want to find everything.
There’s even a story to see unravel as you progress, though I’d be lying if I said I found it particularly interesting. It’s not like it’s bad at all and it’s interesting that it does lean into some real-life issues, but rather that it didn’t live up to the creativity and vibrancy of the game itself. I would have loved to have seen Viewfinder tell a baffling topsy-turvy tale that embraced the mind-bending mentality of its gameplay, but instead it just felt a bit ordinary. But hey, it doesn’t deter from the puzzling at all, so it’s hard to complain too much.
Viewfinder is a wonderfully unique puzzling experience that’ll keep players bedazzled with its world-altering gameplay mechanics. I was constantly left in awe when I saw these 2D images manifest into the 3D world, whilst the puzzles are meticulously designed to creatively embrace the changes you make in some ridiculously clever ways (even IF it is possible to exploit a few of them). And with plenty of new ideas introduced as you progress, there’s always SOMETHING different to do to alter the imaginatively designed world.
It’s just an excellent puzzler and one that feels wholly unique in what it does, because believe me, there’s nothing out there quite like Viewfinder.
Developer: Sad Owl Studios
Publisher: Thunderful Games
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5