ThroughLine Games / Square Enix (studio)
15 May 2018 (released)
16 May 2018
Ever wondered why in all the time Studio Ghibli has been around, why we’ve not had a game created by them? An interactive experience that has all the charm, creativity and magic only Studio Ghibli could deliver, visually and emotionally. Well dream no further as we’re treated to a Forgotten Anne, a game that Studio Ghibli would’ve made if they did make video games.
Forgotton Anne centres on a world where forgotten items (otherwise known as Forgotlings) end up when no one loves them anymore. From that one sock you lost under the bed to that misplaced gun (who forgets a gun!?). Everything forgotten in our world is magically teleported and given new life as they can lives, breathes and speaks their mind. What we see very early on is that there is a society made up of all lost/forgotten items where everything has a purpose and is governed by one man and his enforcer, Anne. The goal for the leader of this society is to return home with all the forgotlings via a great Bridge being build. Yet not everyone is truly happy about this.
Rebels are attacking key areas of the city in order to destabilise Government and put a halt to the construction of the bridge. So it’s up to Anne to investigate and find the culprits, before they succeed in their mission, stranding everyone within the world of the forgotten. Anne will explore a beautiful and captivating world where lost items have made a home for themselves, building a society where items which were once lost, now have purpose and meaning in their lives.
The story is what you could expect from a Studio Ghibli inspired game, with interesting themes, captivating drama and a grand adventure which tests the moral fibre of our leading lady. Anne as the Enforcer is able to “distil” any living object rendering them inanimate. So as you could imagine she’s not the most liked person by many. She’s a decent leading protagonist where many of her choices rely on the player decision making. She’ll come across some difficult choices and often show a tough exterior but really she is quite vulnerable. The supporting cast are made up of various items which have distinct personalities and are all well voiced acted. Forgotten Anne does capture some classic story elements seen in many Studio Ghibli films, including fascism, the price of freedom and how morale is really a grey area.
I will admit there are some concepts of the world which don’t make sense, such as how many items are alive yet background objects such as cups, jugs, chest of drawers and other items aren’t alive. Even though there are the same items which are indeed alive and have conciseness. It’s also clear from early stages of the game what’s going to happen and why. The main antagonist and the motivation behind certain characters can be guessed very early on, which ruins any twists this story does have. The plot is predictable and there are a few clichéd elements which feel a little out of place. Or if you’re a massive Studio Ghibli fan then you’ll properly over look these as they’re in most of their films.
Visually this game is beautiful! It’s the game strongest point, as everything is hand drawn and it looks identical to Ghibli’s famous style. There’s also some great visual story telling techniques happening throughout the campaign. All environments and locations look fantastic and there’s plenty of exploration and platforming to engage with.
Gameplay is broken down into the above mentioned, exploration and platforming with elements of deduction and light puzzle solving. Anne will for most of her time will be presented with various challenges, which usually revolve around getting through locked doors, getting to out of reach places or speaking with any number of characters to find out vital information. Anne has a device called the Arca that allows her to distil forgotlings and literally take their essence to use as energy. Granted she can’t do this all the time but there were a couple of intense moments/choices where she will. Otherwise the Arca is mainly used to transfer energy from one object to another or to manipulate various switches and all. Nothing exciting but the idea and it’s use at key moments are cool.
There are some great set pieces that combine many different elements and the lateral side of things, while not entirely challenging did offer great variation. Anne will travel find herself on run away trains, shady down town areas with monstrous, man eating litter and a city made of junk where the rebels hide out.There’s plenty of different objectives in Anne’s adventure and multiple choices which impact her journey in a later stage. While the third act does get a little too surreal, I found this journey enthralling to the very end.
My biggest issue is with the platforming and this is really down to the clunky and stiff controls. There are segments which show off some excellent level design for platforming gameplay but these are hindered by the game’s tank like controls, whether it’s keyboard & mouse or controller.
Forgotton Anne is a delightful adventure that harbours the magic of any great Studio Ghibli film, with beautiful animation, a great journey and a cool concept. It’s a shame that the controls do impact on the overall experience when it comes to the platforming segments or how easy many of the puzzles are. Yet there’s a captivating journey regardless and one that won’t be easily forgotten.
++ Beautifully animated and drawn
+ Captivating world and journey
+ Good variation of gameplay elements
- Some cliche and flawed story elements
- Some lateral elements are too easy
- Clunky controls for platforming
A Steam copy of Forgotton Anne was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.