I played a curious and very charming game recently.
That game was Forgotton Anne, developed by indie studio Throughline Games and published by Square Enix collective in May 2018, for Steam (PC/Mac), PS4 and Xbox One.
I remember seeing it being shown at EGX last year, and it piqued my interest but I was unable to go and give the stand a proper visit due to needing to go elsewhere and queue (and those queues can get very long!) I have a feeling that seeing it in an exposition environment wouldn’t have done it proper justice, anyway, as it often the case with quieter and heavily story-driven games at gaming shows.
As it turns out, I added it to my Steam watchlist afterwards, then forgot about it for a good while (ha!) before receiving it as a gift for my birthday at the end of July.
To my astonishment, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of feedback from the public online (at the time of writing). There are only a handful of ratings and reviews on Steam and PSN (with the US PSN having even less), which is shocking for a game of this quality. YouTube has a fair few review/playthrough videos, however, and the feedback the game has had are generally very positive.
I have a feeling that this low uptake is in no small part due to poor marketing on behalf of Square Enix, because from my first-hand experience this game is definitely deserving of much more praise.
It seems that Anne really has been forgotten.
So, I’m going to contribute by doing my best to give a fair review based on what I have personally experienced of the game!
What is it?
Forgotton Anne is an adventure/platforming game with puzzle elements where you assume the role of the protagonist, Anne, who lives in a fantastical city in another realm where everything that goes missing from our world ends up, and lives as a sentient being. Lost a sock in the wash? It’s probably one of Anne’s neighbours.
After the power goes out and Anne sets out to turn it back on, events start snowballing as she begins to uncover mysteries surrounding the city she calls home, and her own existence.
Things I like
1) Wearing its influences on its sleeve, the art style is reminiscent of the work of Studio Ghibli, incorporated into a side-scrolling adventure/platformer.
2) The cutscenes are well spaced, and the cinematography further enforces the feel of being part of a Ghibli-style film.
3) The animation quality is outstanding. I appreciated all of the details, such as Anne’s skirt animation while running up and down stairs, and when she is climbing and jumping the action really feels like it has weight to it. All of the supporting characters have had equal attention paid to their unique animations also.
4) The voice acting is remarkably good and made me believe in the plights of the characters with the actors’ excellent portrayals of the emotions involved.
5) Character development is undertaken well, it doesn’t feel rushed and relationships between characters are believable and don’t appear forced.
6) Being able to choose dialogue options gives more dimensions to the characters’ emotions and personalities portrayed through the story, although in the long run the story often goes in the same direction no matter what choice you make. However, your choices can reveal several wildly different dialogue paths in the long run, resulting in different unlockables at the end of the story. Having only completed it once, I have the need to go back and see what I can do differently to see the other dialogue trees, so it has a fair bit of replay value in that respect.
7) There is a certain element of exploration encouraged throughout the game, and discovering new secrets that reveal deeper levels of the story is an exciting incentive.
8) The story is twisty, turny, and unpredictable enough to surprise me several times and keep me invested in it to the end.
9) There are some great moments that put a smile on my face, both comedic and heart warming.
10) The character Mr. Fig. Need I say more?
Things I didn’t like
1) I’m not sure if I feel comfortable spelling “forgotten” as “forgotton”. I know this is a really minor issue and correct me if I’m Englishing wrong, but it just looks wrong to me!
2) There is one particular point in the game where it isn’t entirely clear what you need to do. I don’t want to get to spoilerific but it involves a white room in a dreamlike sequence, where you can’t see a lot of detail and it is very easy to miss one of the many items you need to interact with in order to continue the story. Cue retracing your steps and tearing your hair out.
3) You cannot skip in-game cutscenes. A pain if you’re trying to unlock everything in the endgame, or if you need to replay a section more than once for any other reason (i.e. if you want to witness a different dialogue path!) Being able to skip the cutscenes would prevent them from becoming stale, so enhancing the player experience not only now but in the future if you want to play the game through properly again without skipping anything.
In summary, I loved playing through Forgotton Anne. It became something I looked forward to at the end of a long day, and gave me a rewarding experience in every play session. Now that I have completed it once, I want to get right back to uncovering the remaining dialogue that I didn’t yet hear, although I might wait a little while before doing so in order to make it feel fresher when I replay it.
Definitely give this one a go if you are a Studio Ghibli fan and enjoy some light platforming and puzzling, as well as a jolly good storyline full of heart and a whole host of lovable, quirktacular characters!