Heavy on narrative, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a game that ultimately succeeds and fails on the strength of its plot. Some will find its story stimulating, with a dual point of view. Others, like myself, will find it cliched and predictable. This alienation is a shame, as the ideas are sound, and the overall package is polished. But in the end, this game is a bit forgettable amidst the crowded Switch eShop.
You start by playing as a young girl named Izzy, who wants to be a writer. You alternate play between her story and that of her fictional character. The latter you can name, choosing from a few selections – I picked Robyn. While Izzie’s personal entries are simple puzzle platforming on journal pages, Robyn engages in a romp through colorful – brace yourself for a cliched name – Estoria. So there’s some variety in Lost Words: Beyond the Page.
While Izzy’s entries deal with a family challenge, Estoria leans heavily into fantasy tropes and likely nothing fans haven’t seen before. The plot develops, and characters are introduced, but the turns are predictable as ever. With little awareness of this game before starting play, I knew what would happen within the opening minutes; this makes me hesitant to talk about even early plot points in any detail. As I bounced back and forth between the two lead characters, and my anticipations were continually realized, I had to recognize the sheer ease of doing so. Not because of extraordinary astuteness on my part, but because of the game’s predictability. I stress this because, while some may take a bit of comfort in that, others could struggle to have their interest held. Or leave a memorable lasting impression.
Gameplay – Puzzle Platforming
When playing as Izzy, Words are your platforms and means to advance. The platforming is simple, with your goal to move from page to page, and the puzzles aren’t taxing. But even if it’s basic overall, I feel like this approach is fairy fresh and enjoyable. The occasional option to pick a word from a few selections also gives a feeling of control over the story. And presumably some replay value (multiple save files are also available).
Estoria sections play more traditionally but not a lot more complicated. Beyond basic platforming, you’ll use words to manipulate your level flow occasionally – think Typoman. It’s fine and dandy, but I feel compelled to stress how clear it is that more focus was put on the story. It would be A-OK if Lost Words: Beyond the Page had a story that resonated with me.
The controls are as expected for such simple gameplay, primarily complaint free. Admittedly Touchscreen options would’ve been handy when dragging words from your journal to perform actions. Still, it’s hardly a deal breaker in Lost Words: Beyond the Page. You’ll jump, duck, and occasionally push with ease. The gameplay is generally slower-paced, so no worries about fumbling with controls under the threat of time. Even kids should quickly move about, with pauses only coming from specific story points, not complex controls.
From its watercolor art to its professional voice acting, Lost Words: Beyond the Page delights the eyes and ears. The animation and atmosphere are augmented with good-fitting music and top-notch voice work. The latter particularly impresses, with the voice actor for Izzy (and her Estoria counterpart) conveying a genuine sincerity that aids this story immensely. I recommend checking out the trailer to be better aware of the impressive audio/visual package. But be warned, even that might be a spoiler in a sense. Did I mention this game is predictable?
There are many positive things I can say about Lost Words: Beyond the Page. It has some good ideas, solid puzzle platforming, and a presentation that’s bound to be appreciated, just to name a few.
But ultimately, It comes up short in the one thing that mattered most, its story. While the skillful voice work certainly helps, this tale is so clichéd and predictable that I found my attention often waning. And it’s translated into my lasting impression or lack thereof. I find the game forgettable, as the enjoyable parts are tied to a weak narrative.
Still, I’d like to see this style used in another game. So I can mildly recommend grabbing this one on sale if it looks intriguing to you. Despite the E rating, I’d hesitate if you have younger kids due to some of the themes and imagery.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page gets a 6/10.