Every few years, we receive an unsuspecting reminder of how impactful video game storytelling can be. We have seen an incredible range of ideas, from BioShock‘s environmental-driven beats to Journey‘s tear-jerking soundtrack. Enter Lost Words: Beyond the Page, a fully-narrated 2D puzzle platformer available April 6 for PC, Xbox, PS4, and Switch. Lost Words tells a gripping, emotional narrative that brings a one-of-a-kind storytelling experience. While its puzzles can be quite a little too simplistic, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is indeed a page-turner.
Written by Rhianna Pratchett (BioShock Infinite), Lost Words: Beyond the Page follows an upbeat and aspiring writer named Izzy. With a new journal to write in and a push from her grandmother, Izzy begins to weave together a fantasy tale in which the written word has immense power. This “word magic”, as Izzy calls it, solves puzzles and platforming sections on the pages of her diary as well as in her created world of Estoria. The hero of this fantasy world inherits “word magic” that kicks off the fantastical quest to restore the world’s Fireflies and face the evil dragon. In it lies a tale about personal growth that, in turn, reflects Izzy’s personal life and her mentality.
In a top-down perspective showing the journal, players will control a pencil-drawn character jumping to and from words as Izzy recounts her day and the precious moments she shares with her grandmother. The words written on-screen and the events narrated are detailed with cute watercolor pictures. When Izzy ponders where to take the hero of Estoria next, the player jumps into the world of Estoria that looks more like your common 2D platforming game.
Narrated by up and coming voice actress Sidonie Maria Šakālis, Lost Words had me invested from the very beginning. Šakālis’ performance hits the ground running with an energetic tone to match Izzy’s curious personality. Izzy and the hero of Estoria are tested in their ability to overcome loss and self-doubt, captured through the game’s beautiful visuals. Šakālis does an incredible job of delivering those heart-wrenching and uplifting moments that really drives home the story being told.
The gameplay of Lost Words involves dragging keywords to take actions or fill in sentences to complete the storytelling. On her journey, the hero of Estoria learns a handful of these magic words and stores them in her book to use in the 2D environments. So words like “Rise,” when hovering over a highlighted platform, will begin to lift the platform. Other words like “Break,” can destroy obstacles in the hero’s way. Lost Words makes it very clear which word to use in each situation, leaving little room for true mind-bending challenges. With no life counter or true challenges, platforming is as basic as just walking from right to left and jumping from platform to platform.
Lost Words’ “Word Magic”
The idea of Lost Words puzzle gameplay is incredibly simple, but in a good way. Having the puzzles and platforming be easy to execute, even if at times too easy, means they do not get in the way of the game’s well-paced story. Gameplay and the narration giving more descriptive context to what’s happening on screen brings a special style of immersive storytelling. A style like this has not felt this distinctive in an indie game since my first playthrough of Journey.
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Lost Words: Beyond the Page carries an orchestrated score that does just as much work to nail the story’s events, big or small. The soft acoustic guitar playing in the background as the game begins immediately settled me into its warm and inviting nature. It almost perfectly captured the feeling of reading a book by the campfire. During the more emotional sections, the music ensnared me time and time again into what was happening. And once it was over, I needed a pausing moment to remember that I was playing a game. Lost Words‘ story does not have a ton of layers to uncover. But, its simplicity has the merit and quality of a wonderfully imaginative youth novel.
Lost Words is Great For All Ages
Coincidentally, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is the perfect title for younger gamers. “Word magic” influencing the story gives an all-new educational tool that can show the impact of words. The game also teaches fundamental values needed in life. Ideals like self-determination and making sense of things out of our control. In that sense, Lost Words is much like modern Disney movies where all ages are welcome to the experience.
Beyond its gameplay and music, Lost Words evokes a beautiful watercolor art style splashed over Izzy’s diary pages. While the graphics will not blow you away, they instead service the story and personality of the game. Lost Words absolutely favors more of an artsy-look than to be the prettiest indie game in the market.
Beyond the Page
Priced at $14.99, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a fantastic weekend game that can be completed in four to five hours. Lost Words provides an emotional experience that not only goes beyond the page, but beyond the game. This one is definitely worth your time, whether solo or playing along with your kid. This rousing coming-of-age adventure is wonderful for any kind of player looking for the next imaginative story to embark on.