Lost Words Beyond the Page brings a watercolor-hued platform adventure to PC and consoles, focusing on emotions and the magic of words.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a title dedicated to lost souls. A powerful tale about loss, regret and guilt, which also manages to shine the lights of hope, acceptance and optimism. By exploiting – literally – the magic of words, the team of Sketchbook Games he packed a daily and suggestive story, in constant balance between reality and fantasy, to be experienced in the role of a child but to be interpreted with the eyes of an adult.
Debuted as an exclusive time on Google Stadia, Lost Words Beyond the Page now reaches, thanks to the publisher Modus Games, even the shores of PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Proposed with an entrance ticket of 14.99 euros, indie does not bring with it an experience that is too long-lived, but the approximately 5 hours required to reach the end credits will know how to make their way strongly into the hearts of many gamers. Our journey, not without a few tears, saw us hold the pen in the PS4 version of the title, played in backward compatibility on PlayStation 5.
An extraordinary grandmother
To sign the script for Lost Words: Beyond the Page is an exceptional name. Sketchbook Games has in fact made use of the collaboration of Rhianna Pratchett, which over the years has contributed to shaping the imaginaries of Prince of Persia of 2008, as well as of Overlord, BioShock Infinite and Rise of the Tomb Raider (about that, here’s our Rise of the Tomb Raider review). After all, the writer’s talent for narration could only have it in her blood: Rhianna Pratchett’s father is in fact the well-known Terry Pratchett, author of the literary saga of the Disco World.
To give voice to the fairytale weave woven by the writer is Izzy, a little girl deeply attached to her energetic and lively grandmother. A precious bond, seasoned with small adventures, nights on the beach and wise advice. “Wanting something doesn’t mean getting it“, for example, is a phrase that the elderly lady often repeats to her hyperactive and imaginative granddaughter, who continues to solemnly declare that she wants to become a famous writer when grown up.
To encourage the little girl to pursue her dream, the woman offers her a precious gift: blank pages. The diary that Izzy receives from her grandmother is an immense window on the world and on herself, a gift that will become her most precious companion in the darkest moment she has ever had to face.
When a sudden illness separates grandmother and granddaughter, the latter is determined not to be disheartened. While remaining optimistic in the face of the difficulties of real life, at nightfall the little girl seeks refuge and comfort in a world of fantasy. Following the advice of her beloved grandmother, she decides to give shape to the words that have long been sailing among her thoughts and to try to practice in order to become, one day, a great writer. Thus take shape the adventures of a young heroine, a resident of fantastic kingdom of Estoria.
Here, in a small village, once upon a time an elderly sorceress, protector of the entire community. By now tired, the latter is however eager to pass on the task to her young and courageous protégé. When the magical fireflies that protect the village finally reveal themselves to the girl, the wise woman does not hesitate to pass the baton to her, to enjoy a little well-deserved rest. However, the child’s joy is short-lived: a terrible dragon rises in the sky, setting fire to homes and forests and abducting magical fireflies.
Thus a parallel path begins, with the fictional heroine engaged in the rescue of Estoria and Izzy intent on overcoming the sense of bewilderment that the harsh reality arouses in her soul. We do not want to offer too many details on the adventure told by Lost Words: Beyond the Page: we will therefore limit ourselves to highlighting how indie can paint extremely effectively. the importance of those gifts with which loved ones give us a fragment of a dream, and the power of speaking and sharing as a healing tool.
In writing the tender fairy tale, Izzy faces a future of infinite possibilities, crowded with hopes and fears. A “sea ocean” towards which the grandmother’s diary accompanies the child like a firm boat, recalling the words that Alessandro Baricco wrote in 1993: “how beautiful it would be if, for every sea that awaits us, there was a river for us. And someone a father, a love, someone capable of taking us by the hand and of finding that river, imagine it, invent it and place us on its current, with the lightness of a single word, goodbye. This, indeed, would be wonderful. It would be sweet, life, any life“.
Two worlds, one story
If on the front of the narrative Lost Words: Beyond the Page develops along two parallel lines, the same happens on the front of the gameplay, which changes its structure depending on whether you are in the real world or among the lands of Estoria. Basically, the proposed experience remains in both cases that of a 2D platformer, but with different declinations depending on the setting. The game formula remains extremely simple on both sides of the page, but the frequent alternation between reality and fantasy manages to guarantee the experience an adequate dose of dynamism.
Izzy tells us about her daily life between the pages of the diary, using words that literally turn into platforms to walk, climb and overcome. Between one letter and another, a series of lights conceal annotations in the margins, while the advance of our small steps generates a dynamic transformation of the opaque white of the cellulose. Wallpapers made with a style that refers to watercolor paintings come to life, revealing from time to time Izzy’s family, the house cat or a starry night contemplated in the company of the grandmother.
Between one word and another, small puzzles await the player, who will have to recompose the old lady’s wise warnings, tidy up the protagonist’s bedroom or, again, take the necessary steps to create an aquarium populated with bioluminescent algae. All the tasks are extremely simple, exactly like the advance between one platform and another, but the mix between narration and the artistic sector manages to charm and surprise with scenic solutions of great impact.
Less suggestive are the phases proposed by the world of Estoria. The scenarios of the fantasy world, which takes shape beyond the boundaries of the pages of the diary, seemed to us rather traditional, devoid of that inspiration that permeates the other dimension of Lost Words: Beyond the Page. Between forests, deserts and volcanoes, the impact is still pleasant, but seen when made by the development team for the world of Izzy, we would have appreciated a more creative rendering of the events that unfold in the kingdom of Estoria.
Simple, but effective, it is instead an appreciable find on the narrative front: in some situations, Izzy’s narrator will hesitate to continue the story, undecided on how to advance the story. In these phases, it will be the player who selects the option he prefers, slightly modifying the evolution of the fantasy adventure. A detail that does not radically change the experience, but that manages to increase the player’s identification with Izzy.
The gameplay instead, which sees the young woman in Estoria, is more articulated
protagonist take advantage of the magic of words. By drawing on a magical book given to her by the village elder, the girl can indeed change the reality that surrounds it. Commands like “break” or “lift” allow you to clear the way to proceed in the adventure, while others like “silence” or “ignore” generate more peculiar effects that we want to leave you the pleasure of discovering. Unfortunately, the little girl’s arsenal will keep a somewhat contained dimension for the entire trip, with the second half of her adventure starting to offer a slight feeling of repetition. An impression that nevertheless never materializes in boredom, thanks to the constant alternation with the real dimension and the limited duration of the adventure. However, a bitter taste remains, especially in the face of the presence in the final stages of the journey of solutions that manage to integrate the platform component and the use of magic words with greater ingenuity, fully convincing in their level design.
The soundtrack is appreciable proposed by Lost Words: Beyond the Page, with songs that, without being overly evocative, manage to tease the right chords from time to time. On the technical front, we finally point out the absence of particular problems, with our journey that has come to an end without unexpected events, for a solid and fluid experience.
Lost Words: Beyond The PageVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4Lost Words: Beyond the Page offers a touching experience, able to lead the players to identify with the experience of the little protagonist. A powerful and talented narrative that unfolds its effectiveness especially when you find yourself treading the handwritten ink words on your diary in small steps, capable of evoking snapshots that are both daily and suggestive. With more structured gameplay and a higher level of challenge, the adventures of Izzy and the heroine of the world of Estoria could have shone a brighter light, taking the delicate indie to higher heights. Despite this, Lost Words: Beyond the Page remains a title that we absolutely feel to recommend to enthusiasts looking for a genuinely exciting journey, able to fascinate – even if for a few hours – with its delicate watercolor shades.