Lost Worlds: Beyond the Page - Wasted Potential
At its core, Lost Words is a narrative-heavy game with a few simple puzzles, and other staples one expects in a sidescroller. There are moments where you are engaging as the character Izzy, exploring aspects of your life by traversing the words and pages of your own diary, and others where you are a character in a story written by Izzy, with an assortment of magic at your command.
It’s an interesting approach, and the way that you use the different spell words is clever, but for something with a narrative core to the experience of the story, it unfortunately doesn’t deliver something compelling. Tragedy and loss are always seen as the shortcut to serious, and serious as the path of legitimacy when coupled with games that are still trying to cast off the image of frivolity that hangs heavy around its proverbial neck.
What we have in Lost Words is a shared story, with the chief protagonist being the child writing a story, and a supporting insert of a heroine inside their story, that is ultimately a means for the former to act out the tribulations they experience.
While I could identify with the experiences that the outer character went through, and had dealt with the same losses, I did not find the character’s way of coping to ring genuine. Instead, it felt like an act with a preset conclusion, a nod to an audience to let them know this next bit would be especially clever. Perhaps clever isn’t the right word for what Lost Words strives for, and it is the arrival of a moment of grief that seems to suggest it carries some inalienable truth of our existence that never quite joins the dots.
Taken in their individual moments, or broken into their corresponding parts, the finesse of the game is present in its world, its design, and to some extent its characters. There is a handful that in the inner world is reduced to surprisingly sentient keys, but for the most part, each aspect works on its own. Even the line-by-line writing, whether through the dialogue or the words in the diary, work. The diary itself is a fantastic mechanic that feels innovative yet still tangible, and it’s hard to fault that area for the execution.
This isn’t to say that the game is not an interesting experience, or not worth playing. It just treads a lot of the same ground as many other stories that deal with grief, including games. The way in which you play the game does mean it could be suitable for early readers, though the topics at hand may be too upsetting for children, while older players are unlikely to find enough depth for the subject matter. If there was a way to separate the inner story from that of Izzy and her family, it would be much easier to put this into the hands of younger family members.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by the publisher