From developer Sketchbook Games and publisher Modus, we have Lost Words: Beyond The Page. Notably, the narrative is penned by Rhianna Pratchett and sets the tone very well. As does great music by David Housden (previously of Thomas Was Alone).
The key component here is an emotive voice performance from the vocal talent behind the main character, Sidonie Maria Šakālis does a stellar job in providing a nuanced rounded performance in her depiction of Isabel. We usually defer to the TV speakers when playing games, but we have started using a decent headset of late. We’re glad we did, as on this occasion we were in for a treat.
Lost Words is a narrative adventure with a roughly fifty/fifty split between journal and platforming sections. You see, being a young girl, Izzy maintains a journal. It all makes perfect sense when you play it anyway. In the narrative we mentioned, it explores the relationship Isabel has with her grandmother and parents and how she copes when it is shaken to its core.
We won’t go into specifics ’cause the storyline is key here. At once Lost Words greatest strength and weakness at the same time. Due to the revelatory nature of the storyline, we won’t go into any sort of details, but here be spoilers.
The journal is very well done in terms of a framing device. Izzy is an aspiring writer and as well as the diary format, these entries are interspersed with some platforming sections that serve as a means of visualising Izzy’s inner turmoil. There’s nothing particularly taxing here, but Lost Words is an emotionally taxing journey rather than an outright challenging journey. The light puzzling and platforming make this suitable for kids to play alongside parents too.
To further reinforce the concept of it being a live diary, you’re able to choose how to react to situations to a limited extent, just as you are able to gently influence the platforming sections by suggesting the name of the character among other attributes. It all adds to the fact that despite this being a heavily curated journey, you still feel like you have some agency in how matters pan out.
One of the nice touches in the platforming stages proper is the spellbook with spell verbs to aid you on your way, for example ‘rise’ to lift you or a platform, or ‘break’ to, well, break items and obstacles in your path. You’ve not got them available all the time, but that’s no bad thing.
There are collectibles on your journey, but nothing you’ll struggle with. Put it this way, we missed a single firefly during our playthrough and that was only down to a slightly fiddly path we didn’t realise we could take. Upon finishing the final level, we replayed a few of the diary sections to pick up a couple more collectibles yet the impact of the story wasn’t lessened, despite our knowing the outcome. It suddenly got very dusty shall we say.
Graphically the art in the journal sections is watercolours done in the style you might expect from a teenage girl and the platforming sections proper are brightly illustrated in a vivid manner. The few NPCs you encounter are manifestations of the real life emotional turmoil Izzy is going through.
In conclusion then, Lost Words: Beyond The Page is a fantastic narrative journey with high production values. Replayability is limited a little due to the way the story unfolds, though as we mentioned the impact isn’t lessened if you happen to revisit sections at all. It’s a little brief at eight levels total, but this is a game best savoured rather than finished in one sitting. Finally, if you’ve still got a grandma, give her a hug while you’ve still got the chance.
+ Excellent narrative and story
+ Well implemented spellcasting mechanic
- Replayability is a little limited due to narrative
- Occasionally fiddly platforming