ReviewsReview: Lost Words: Beyond the Page

Review: Lost Words: Beyond the Page

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As a child, books and storytelling amazed me. The magic that the words hold captivated me more than any film or sports event ever could. Yet, no matter what is written, it can’t beat the imagination of the human mind! Especially that of a child. As we grow the sparkle erodes, the surrounding oppression weighs us down, and it’s easier to follow another’s creative thoughts than think of our own. When I saw Lost Words: Beyond the Page, I smiled. It’s a game that I’ve waited for since its release on Google Stadia. I was keen to see how writer Rhianna Pratchett wove her wonderful ideas into this story.

Developed by Sketchbook Games and published by Modus Games, this 2D platform puzzle game is both touching and beautiful to look at. Set in both the real world and a land of fantasy, this heartfelt tale will melt the iciest of hearts and will take you on a fantastical, yet emotive journey of a young girl’s mind.

Lost Words: Beyond the Page was worth the wait.

Building yourself up for a game is a dangerous ploy. I have been left disappointed more times than I care to remember. Happily, Lost Words: Beyond the Page was worth the wait. With delightful characters, a beautiful story, excellent voice-over work, striking landscapes and a magical watercolour aesthetic, this is one title you’ll lose yourself in.

The story revolves around a young girl who loves her family, especially her gran who she dotes on. Izzy has a passion for words! Her journal is used to write down her thoughts. She is encouraged to allow her imagination to run wild. She writes a fantasy tale about a girl in a whimsical and enchanted land called Estoria.

This story turns out to be more than just a playful tool for the girl to waste some time. The tome becomes a reflection of her mind and her emotions. Izzy’s life is turned upside down when her gran has a stroke. The land of Estoria is now in peril and faces turmoil as well. A fire-breathing dragon destroys the sacred village tree and the fireflies who protect the villagers have scattered. The lead character in your story must traverse many environments to collect the insects, and hunt down the fire-breathing beast.

You are trusted as the new guardian.

Words tell the story and solve the puzzles.

The story cleverly splits itself equally between real-life and fantasy. The first is expressed only through the use of Izzy’s journal. Words are utilised to solve the puzzles you face. Moments include; moving the word clean over dishes to simulate the task, or burn, where you throw a torch onto a piece of paper. Nothing is too difficult, and the solutions will make you crack a wry smile. Alongside this, the other words form the platform element. The silhouetted girl must touch highlighted text to reveal more of the plot. It was a nice way of telling the story in a timely manner. You soon lose yourself in the moment, bouncing around the sentences, looking to progress to the next chapter.

Estoria is where the magic truly happens. Each episode “boss” reflects Izzy’s emotional state and overcoming each one helps her to come to terms with her gran’s situation. If you look beneath the story, and the fluffy stuff, you find familiar gaming mechanics. Yes, each has a magical twist, but there is little complexity.

You possess a magic book (a journal, perhaps?) This holds the spells you discover on your journey; rise silent, burn, break, repair, and so forth. Each must be dragged from the book to the required object to solve the puzzle. This is where real-life and fantasy merge beautifully, with the use of words to overcome each obstacle. As well as the puzzles you must; leap over pits, push blocks, swing on vines, and crawl through gaps. It doesn’t break the mould, though the use of words is unique and made for a polished and well thought out adventure.

Short stages and a linear approach.

More gamers are demanding bigger and vast landscapes to lose themselves in. But less is sometimes more. The larger the world, the more chance the concept is watered down. Each of the small stages is accompanied by a portion of Izzy’s journal. This highlights poignant moments found in her fantasy tale, and the creatures she encounters. Each of the 8 chapters can be played casually. Be warned that they cannot be selected individually, so completionists will need to keep their eyes peeled for all the fireflies.

The linear approach may frustrate, but this represented the structure of the novel perfectly. Moving from section to section slowly and methodically allowed the emotion to build. It becomes apparent how the trauma has impacted the family’s mental state.

The heart and soul!

Lost Words: Beyond the Page was nearly perfect.

Lost Words: Beyond the Page is spectacular to look at. I don’t mean triple-A realistic graphics that’ll blow your mind! No, its watercolour aesthetic, vibrancy and colour choices create a surreal world that is a joy to visit. The simplicity of crisp text on a white background was great. The blend of family photos enhanced the written word, and the easy puzzles all made this a visual treat. You then consider the unique landscapes, beautiful character models and the ease at which the game flips from pastel to garish, real-life to fantasy. It’s fantastic.

Sadly, though, there were noticeable errors that destroyed the immersive nature. Screen tears, odd movement trails that polluted the image, and one moment where I moonwalked for several minutes. The latter made me laugh, and the others didn’t break the game, it just took away the polished finish.

Let’s get back to the positives. The audio is simply stunning. The music will make you well up and will reduce you to a blubbering wreck. Its melancholy tones sell the emotional state perfectly. Anyone who doesn’t instantly connect with it is a heartless monster. The music is matched up with an incredible delivery of narrative and voice-over work. You’ll lap up each of the characters’ personalities, falling for their charms instantly. This is the standard that every indie title should aim for. Sadly, most will miss the mark.

Just keep jumping!

Its simplicity makes it a joy to play.

I love when a game allows you to focus on the action. Lost Words: Beyond the Page does just that. The buttons are responsive and using the spells is a straightforward task. It was a pleasure to play from start to finish. Playing it was easy, making it a title that is accessible to gamers of all abilities.

One of the unique elements is the ability to control the story. Key moments are decided by you; the character’s name, her personality, why her foes are upset and so on. Your decisions alter the storyline, and this adds untold amounts of replay value. What a fantastic and ingenious way to keep you playing. It’s a brilliant idea, and I can’t wait to see how my next playthrough unfolds.

Grab some tissues you’ll need them!

There is no denying it, I loved everything about this game. Tainted slightly by some glitches and its lack of challenge. However, it’s a stunning story, with a wonderful presentation and tear-inducing moments that more than make up for this. You need this in your life, so buy it here! Experience the sumptuous land of Estoria, the creatures hidden within, and the quest to capture the dragon. All this and more can be enjoyed in this marvellous platform puzzle adventure. 

SUMMARY

Lost Words: Beyond the Page is simply fantastic. A touching story with beautiful graphics and an emotive audio. Wonderful acting transports you to Estoria and you'll be captivated by its beauty. This is a must play game!

+ Beautiful watercolour aesthetic.
+ Emotive audio.
+ Excellent acting.
+ A stunning story.
+ Simple but well executed mechanics.
+ Great value for money.
+ Lots of replay value.
- Some visual glitches.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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