Video games are widely considered to be a form of escapism, and seeing the many different worlds that players are often transported to, few can argue with the sentiment. However, there are also experiences that cut deeper and closer to the heart, which allows us to take a moment to reflect and think. Sketchbook Games’ Lost Words: Beyond the Page is one such game, a charming 2D platformer that is visually stunning, yet packs an emotional punch with a tale of love and loss.
Essentially, this is a game about two different protagonists. Penned by game writer Rhianna Pratchett, whose father Sir Terry Pratchett will be familiar to fantasy lovers, players are introduced to Isabelle/Izzy the writer, and a female heroine whose name players will get to choose.
The former aspires to be a writer, and is trying her hand at journaling for the first time. As for the former, players will be living out the contents of the journal with a touch of mystical fantasy as the Guardian of the Fireflies. As a dragon devastates the magical kingdom of Estoria, it will be up to you to save the day by gathering the power of the fireflies.
It is a unique way of telling a story, blending gameplay into the words and imagination of Isabelle the writer, and it does lend a certain weight to the transformation of both the fantastical world and our heroine. However, it can be clumsy at times.
At the very least, it is pretty to look at. There are different environments to explore, with lush forests, scorching deserts, and a variety of areas to marvel at. The backing soundtrack is also a plus, marking every momentous step you take towards saving the world. In sections where sound is deliberately absent, there is more to feel.
The world changes according to how Izzy feels, foreshadowing some of the later sections in Lost Words: Beyond the Page. A striking sequence where the world is devoid of colour is the best representation of how the two distinct experiences combine to deliver its message.
As the journaling aspect alludes to, the power of words come into play in Lost Words: Beyond the Page. When dealing with various obstacles in your heroic journey, you can rely on word magic to manipulate the world.
For example, the Rise spell can move objects and raise the terrain. A tree that stands in your way can be broken with the Break spell, while you can rely on the power of Hope to light up your way in the darkness. It is a neat idea, especially with its tenets to Izzy’s story on the other end, and serves a purpose in driving the narrative forward.
Otherwise, the platforming and the puzzles that players will run into during the course of Lost Words: Beyond the Page are no challenges to even the more casual of gamers. While the plot side of things are certainly covered, perhaps the gameplay portion becomes a little less important.
In comparison, the adventures in Estoria pale in comparison to the emotional weight and frankly, more amazing visuals that accompany the less busy but instantly memorable journalling sessions of Isabelle. As Izzy pens down her thoughts, players can literally walk across each and every word to help untangle her emotional ups and downs.
The words and sentences become the platforms instead, with additional snippets that flesh out the narrative even more if you can make your way to distinct asterisks. Sketches and art fill the pages as you progress, each telling the story of Izzy and her journey through life with her parents, little brother, and more notably, her grandmother in this tumultuous period.
While it may appear childish and not exactly a challenging form of gameplay, the fact of it all is that it is meant to be real. There are sombre moments and flashes of unbridled joy, the peaks and valleys that life is supposed to contain, all in this neat little package of a video game. Instead of relying on gameplay, the story told through Izzy’s words and the beautiful sketches have a real impact.
If you are able to look past the less important and ironic inclusion of the platforming gameplay in Lost Words: Beyond the Page, there is something special to be experienced here.
Simple gameplay is not exactly a selling point, but when it is used to sell a strong story such as the one of Izzy, you cannot help but relate and get emotional. Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a truly heartfelt journey of emotions delivered in the charming guise of a video game worth experiencing, even if may not be for everyone.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A story that delivers beyond its gameplay limitations, Lost Words: Beyond the Page will make you feel things in the best of ways.
Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 7/10