Indie games are relatively easy to overlook, especially when you don’t really know what it is you’re looking for. As someone that typically always plays the latest and greatest, I’m always looking for a palette cleanser, and Lost Words: Beyond the Page was exactly that.
What Is It?
Originally released for the Stadia (I know, I’m surprised too), Lost Words is pretty much a walking simulator disguised as a platformer.
The game begins with a journal telling the story, entry by entry, as the words are written and narrated on each page. You take control of a little girl running and jumping all over these words, and as you walk over highlighted words, more are written.
These entries give you a more of a background on the main character Izzy, an aspiring writer and storyteller, who has to cope with unfortunate changes happening in her family all while she struggles to write her first story, a fantastical epic of a young woman who also comes of age and it’s here where gameplay also shifts to more of a platformer with light puzzle elements.
Lost Words essentially tells two stories woven into one, and it’s an interesting narrative feat worth experiencing.
Why Should I Care?
The overall story told in Lost Words is both heartfelt and predictable, and the way the narrative is told is what really sets the game apart. Aside from just the interactive journal entries that push forward with simplistic gameplay, the more platforming-based sections are also enjoyable despite not offering much of a challenge.
The only things you can do in these sections are run, jump, and crawl. While the game has a couple “bosses,” there isn’t any combat or any sort of gameplay that’ll come across as difficult.
You have access to a spellbook that’ll have certain special words in them like “rise” and “repair” that’ll allow you to interact with the environment. Rise is the first magic word you’ll come across, and it’ll be used to raise platforms and columns to reach otherwise unreachable areas. The “repair” spell can also fix bridges that have otherwise been destroyed, and another example is the “break” spell that’ll break things like tree trunks that are in your war or cause paths to open.
Nearly every level is completely linear and requires limited thinking to get through. If you “die” by falling into a bottomless pit or something, you just respawn at a spot close to where it was you messed up. You can also “die” during the journal entries, but that’ll just cause the girl to end up back on the top of the page. For better or for worse, dying is of no consequence. Heck, there’s even a trophy/achievement for falling into a white space void in the journal five times in a row.
If there’s any sort of real challenge to the game, it’s in collecting the fireflies that are sprinkled throughout various levels. There are 120 fireflies in the game with some easier to get than others. The fireflies are key to a section of the game at the very end, but the game can be finished regardless of whether you get them all or not. The main reason anybody would care about collecting them all is to get the game’s Platinum Trophy, and it’s an easy one to complete as the game is only around four hours long with the opportunity to go back to any specific level in the game in case you missed something.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
When it comes to interactive narratives like these, I appreciate how player action impacts the story. Lost Words is different in the sense that it already knows what story it’s going to tell, and while you have different choices to make throughout the game, it tells the same story. There are absolutely no stakes with the choices you make, and while that might be weird because it renders your choices useless–it’s actually what makes this game work. After all, this isn’t your story. It’s Izzy’s.
At the end of the day, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a short but enjoyable and heartfelt experience that anybody looking for a chill game to play should try out. It doesn’t break new ground and it won’t heighten your senses, but the narrative and the way the game paces you through it ensures that it won’t be a waste of your time. A lot of great games do things that don’t show respect for your time. Lost Worlds doesn’t do that, and that’s a big part of why it’s an easy recommendation for anybody that needs that bite-sized experience before jumping into something else.