Forgotton Anne Review – A Real Puzzle Adventure
The Square Enix Collective has released some truly inspiring and interesting indie games since it started providing smaller devs a (greater) voice in 2016. From Goetia to The Turing Test and beyond, some truly fantastic experiences have come from the Collective.
Enter Forgotton Anne.
A 2D cinematic adventure game developed by ThroughLine Games and published by Square Enix, Forgotton Anne takes players on a journey through The Forgotten Lands, which is an enchanted world populated by Forgotlings — creatures made up of mislaid objects, such as clothing or other items, who are longing to be remembered again. With an art style reminiscent of Studio Ghibli, Forgotton Anne is masterfully crafted.
It is more a puzzle-mystery than an action-adventure with its mild puzzle-platforming elements, but the storyline is no less compelling. The story draws you in for a thrilling adventure and leaves you wondering, constantly, where it'll take you next!
The Story is Yours to Make
You play the titular Anne, who is known in the Forgotten Lands as the Enforcer. She has the job of keeping order and policing anyone not following the rules. Through the Arca device, Anne is able to wield and control Anima, the Forgotten Lands' power source. With her instructions from Master Bonku on how to proceed, Anne begins her journey.
During the game, you get the sense that Anne is both feared and respected (except by Strut, who seems to fear and respect no one) because of her appointed role. Anne and Master Bonku, who are seemingly the only humans here, are preparing to return to their world, but they are waylayed by an explosion.
Now you have more questions than answers -- and danger is on the prowl. And that’s what makes Forgotton Anne intriguing, these instances that draw you into the story.
Your Decisions Matter
As Anne sets out to find the rebels that caused the explosion -- and figure out what is actually afoot -- she runs into a mutineer, who is in the form of a scarf. The scarf arms himself with a shovel, and suddenly, Anne is presented with a choice.
She has the chance to stop the scarf then and there by draining him of the Anima that keeps him alive (known as distilling) or letting him escape. Whichever path you choose, the game will tell you how the outcome could have been different, giving weight to your decisions.
The game requires you question everything you think you know in any given moment. You cannot change your answer after you’ve picked it. The interactions are set based on your responses. Thus, it’s important to pay attention to the storyline.
You get a sense for everyone you talk to, but you never truly know who is working with the rebels and who is innocent — and you do not want the guilt of distilling an innocent Forgotling on your conscious, or do you?
Let’s take a moment of silence for all the innocents you’ll probably inadvertently attack.
Unlocking the Puzzle
There’s no set game level or skill leveling present. Instead, the gameplay is performed in a puzzle format. The earlier areas will be easiest, or course; however, as more options become available, the time spent figuring out how to move on will exponentially increase — unless you’re a puzzle master and can typically see the bigger picture right off the bat.
With the puzzle format, you are called to figure out where your Anima is best suited. Throughout the game, as you travel to different sections of the Forgotten Land, you'll find you need to use your Anima to progress. Using Anne, you must figure out where your Anima goes and how long it needs to stay there.
Sometimes, there will be empty Anima cylinders or devices that need Anima to help you unlock the next section, and other times, there will be empty Anima cylinders or Forgotlings who do not need to be reanimated. It is important to figure out where your Anima is best served, because you might find the Anima you need to open the door is being used to power the light in a room you'll likely never return to in the game.
In this way, Forgotton Anne works like a strategy title, causing you to think before you act -- and save resources for their most optimal uses.
MacGyver the Platform
Unless you are a serious PC gamer, reconsider the idea of playing Forgotton Anne on your PC. At first, things run smoothly as you’re given instruction on how to use Anne. You learn the usual things, such as how to walk from front to back or side to side, how to interact, how to leave a room, etc., in the beginning of the game.
Nothing too difficult, really, but if you happen to be new to PC gaming and forget some things, like how to jump, you can easily find the instructions again in the How to Play section.
However, movement, at least on PC, was sluggish. Anne wasn't able to perform precise movements as well as she should have -- so you might find maneuvering a little difficult at times, especially for the range of movement the game requires.
You’ll also find some areas harder than others to move through. For example, at times, you may not know if you need to jump, long-jump, or use Anne's wings. And of course, when you do, stiff movements don't help things.
It’s not too problematic overall, but it can be a bit tedious and the process only grows when you gain the use of Anne’s wings.
The Power of Anima
Anima isn’t only used to distill Forgotlings. As the explosion from earlier in the game affected much of the power, Anne will need to use Anima to restore power to random areas for the sake of collecting momentous, and specific areas, so she can move forward in her mission to stop the rebels. To restore power, you must find empty Anima cylinders.
Using Anima isn’t too difficult. The first time you have to use it in the game, you’re given clear instructions on how, but you receive a refresher in the How to Play section.
When using Anima to restore power, you must use the Arca and enter Animavision. Be precise with the directional keys. While nothing bad happens if you sometimes overshoot where you need to be, it’s still time-consuming — especially once you need to figure out the flow of Anima.
Restoring power to certain cylinders won’t be enough after a while. Once you restore power to some areas, you must then change the direction of the flow of Anima. This may allow you to open a door that you previously couldn’t open, operate a crane or lift, or just turn the lights on. Either way, you might find yourself having to redirect the flow of Anima several times in one single area.
The main issue with Anima is once you’ve charged something, the Arca loses the energy to charge anything else. You have to find other full Anima cylinders or take back the Anima you just used.
Now, that might not seem like a problem, but as the puzzles get harder, so does the decision on where to use Anima. While you thought restoring power to a random test dummy might have been your best option, now you don’t have power to open the next door -- so strategy is important.
From time to time in Forgotton Anne, you may find yourself winging it since you receive no real direction in which to go. A few times, you might get lucky and Anne says to herself, “I shouldn’t go that way,” but for the most part, you run around a bit aimlessly until you trigger a new cutscene.
And with the exasperating task of controlling Anne, you might wonder if the game is worth it — especially when you find Anne trapped in a small room with no way out and you’re able to reach it after your 100th attempt.
However, Forgotton Anne is a beautifully-drawn, musically-pleasing RPG puzzle-adventure game. It has a captivating storyline littered with mystery and suspense. After every difficult puzzle, you receive another glimpse into the curious situation happening in the Forgotten Lands.
So, stretch your fingers, expand your brain muscles, and give it a go.
Forgotton Anne is available digitally on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on May 15.
[Note: A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.]