It’s been a while since I had the chance to really sit down and enjoy my Xbox, but I just played through the beautiful and cinematic 2D adventure Forgotton Anne, and I really couldn’t think of a better way to remind me how much I love games.
Forgotton Anne, developed by the independent ThroughLine Games and published through SquareEnix, is due out May 15 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. It’s a lovely, atmospheric adventure about a teenage girl, Anne, who is the respected Enforcer in a world of forgotten things (that single lost sock, old couches, broken alarm clocks). As the Enforcer, she has the power to “distill” the Forgotlings, the beings who live here.
She must use this power in chasing down the Rebels, a group of Forgotlings who are trying to prevent her, her master Bonku, and other Forgotlings from returning to the Ether, where they all originated. Bonku has almost completed the bridge back home.
The story comes to life through Studio Ghibli-style animation and your general mystery-adventure elements – puzzles, guided explorations, well-placed and seamless cut scenes. You get to know the characters, you find out the motivations behind the rebels, and you develop Anne’s personality through the choices you make. Many of the puzzles involve the manipulation of anima, the energy source in the Forgotten Lands, which Anne can utilize to power her Arca, the wrist instrument she uses to “distill” Forgotlings and investigate the Rebels.
It took me about seven hours to play through the game once, but I’m going to do it again just as soon as I can. I’d like to figure out how making different choices affects the outcomes of certain events in the game. And I’ve enjoyed being in the world of the Forgotlings – I’m thrilled to go back and play there again.
This game is just gorgeous. The visuals and music contribute to an immersive and intriguing experience that looks just like my favorite old-school anime, with just a tiny hint of a steampunk vibe. There’s humor and whimsy and the sense that you’re definitely in a fantasy world, but one that’s not so far removed from the one we live in. During the course of the game you’ll experience multiple well-designed environments that are pretty to look at and fun to play.
The story, while not totally unpredictable with mild twists and turns, creates an emotional impact not unlike what you get from the best, heart-wrenching films. The characters are interesting and excellently rendered. I felt totally guilty making the choices that would lead to an ending other than the one I should have taken. I swear I only cried once.
I’m not good with learning controls. This is why I’m so bad at shooters, where ducking and running seems to require a higher degree of education than I have. Forgotten Anne does require a certain dexterity with hand-eye coordination to get places, sometimes places you need to go in order to solve problems. The tutorial is very well-integrated, though, and I will say I never got stuck anywhere for long.
I admit to not always knowing what I was doing, though. Once, I encountered a puzzle that I thought might contain a glitch, but turned out to be easily solved in a different way. Other than that, I experienced the things I like most about adventure games – not terribly complex gameplay and simple decision-making, with consequences that bring you deeper into a mystery you’ve become invested in.
Can’t think of anything. Well, I’m not sure I was completely satisfied with the endings – at least one of them left me hanging. But then again, I’m not sure I was expecting any different. I’d be interested to hear what other people think about that.
Oh, I’m not sure I completely agree about the Teen rating. My 12-year-old experienced the whole thing with me without any issue at all. And he was better at the puzzles for sure. The warnings say there’s partial nudity, crude humor, and the use of tobacco. I don’t recall any partial nudity, and the other two may have been present but not obtrusive. I didn’t even notice. I’d allow a kid several years younger than mine to play with no qualms whatsoever.
I definitely recommend getting Forgotton Anne, if you like platform-style adventures. It’s really well done and stylistically perfect, with a compelling narrative and striking…well, pretty much everything is striking.