People forget and misplace things all the time. I for one often forget about my old gaming consoles when a shiny new upgraded model arrives on the scene. In the real world what happens to these unwanted and unloved items is that they collect dust and deteriorate on a molecular level.
In the world of Square Enix Collective’s hand-drawn 2D cinematic adventure Forgotton Anne however, these objects are sent to a magical place where they long to be remembered. I’ve had my eye on Forgotton Anne since its reveal at EGX in 2016 because there was a clear emphasis on both the storytelling aspect and the artwork. But now it’s arrived, is it a memorable game worthy of your time, or one that you’ll forget in a hurry?
Forgotton Anne delves into the realm of misplaced items, the Forgotten Lands, at a crucial point in time for the ruler of it, Master Bonku. The building of the Ether Bridge, which will grant a return to the human world, is almost complete, when a rebellious few ‘Forgotlings’ throw a spanner in the works, thus sending plans into disarray. Master Bonku tasks Anne – the Enforcer as she’s known across the land – with cleaning up the mess and crushing the rebellion for good. Whilst she may be able to restore order, questions begin to arise as to why anyone would want to sabotage the possible route ‘home’ and how two humans ended up in this land in the first place.
From the very first moment the anime style opening cinematic of Forgotton Anne seamlessly transitions into the part where you take control of the main protagonist, Anne; it’s obvious that this is no ordinary game. Every stage of the experience has the appearance of an anime feature film and it’s absolutely splendid to see the art blending and moving in combination with your actions, without skipping a beat – even to the smallest detail of Anne’s upper body movements on the intake of breath. Whether the dark and dingy streets or the vibrancy of a bar are being depicted, the lovely visuals help capture the mood and atmosphere.
The gameplay is what can often make or break an experience though, and it plays out in a 2.5D environment as you move Anne left and right, up and down staircases, as well as into the foreground and background. Exploring each area is a key element in assessing the situation at hand, even if only to find the Memento collectibles hidden all over the land.
Platforming is another aspect which is prevalent throughout, seeing Anne leap across ledges to attain her destination of choice. It’s relatively simple platforming, but alongside the other gameplay mechanics, it helps to prevent monotony from creeping in. Naturally, she possesses the ability to jump, but after acquiring a set of wings early on, that jump becomes much bigger to access the hard to reach sections. These wings won’t work without the power of anima though; a power she can wield using a special device on her hand.
Anima powers everything in the Forgotten Lands, whilst also flowing through the ‘bodies’ of the Forgotlings, and Anne can store anima within the Arca device. With this, she can take anima out of machinery, storage cylinders and, if the circumstances arise, the Forgotlings. The Arca brings about the puzzling side of Forgotton Anne, by having you use it to activate switches, re-route the circuitry and de-activate machines, in order to progress through this depleted world shaken up by the events caused at the hands of the rebels. Figuring out what you have to do is half the battle as the game leaves you to your own devices, but once that’s understood, then the joy of solving it comes over you. Unless that is you’re unprepared and lack in the anima department, in which case it’ll have you scurrying and backtracking to find some. That’s one of the few things I didn’t enjoy.
What’s good are how different features and problems are brought into play every so often to breathe new life into Fogotton Anne. There are swarms of lost pieces to overcome and avoid, puzzles where you have to move nodes into their correct positions and eventually a mirrored version of Anne to manoeuvre in tandem with the real one. Aside from the adventuring and puzzling, there are conversations to be had too and these lead to a few decisions needing to be made.
Anne will regularly chat to various Forgotlings, and Master Bonku of course, which can end up providing dialogue and actionable choices from time to time. This could be the difference between a harsh interrogation and a bit of friendly digging for information on the rebels. One of Anne’s Arca powers is the ability to distil Forgotlings and drain away their life, but there are consequences and when some my decisions were brought up, I felt bad about a couple and cared about the decisions I had made. For me, that’s a sure sign of good storytelling to ensure I’m invested in the world that’s been created.
Character design plays a huge part in the interesting realm of the Forgotten Lands, because although just objects, they’ve been given life with voiceovers and personality. Characters such as Inspector Magnum who’s a stereotypical cop shaped like a pistol, a brutish gas pump named Plumbum and a mysterious blanket named Blanket are standouts, but even the less important ones like an excitable toy unicorn and a Jackie-in-a-box are cool to see. From old TVs and luggage trunks, to a teddy and a quill, it’s a treasure trove of forgotten items.
Not all goes well in Forgotton Anne though, as a couple of times the game has bugged out, needing a reboot. One time the camera was focused elsewhere from the position of interest and Anne was nowhere to be found, whilst another saw me lose a mirrored copy of Anne and left me unable to progress. I’ve also noticed a handful of spelling errors and incorrect wordings on the subtitles and choice options, which although don’t really affect the enjoyment, it’s something that shouldn’t be seen. My final negative is in regards a small portion of the voice acting, for it fluctuates in quality from character to character, and it occasionally leaves me wondering where the conviction is behind the words being spoken.
Forgotton Anne is a lovely looking game, with the constantly moving art really impressing as you advance on the adventure, creating a world full of interesting characters. The story starts slow but comes into its own as you delve deeper, with sadness, humour and joyful moments all part of the experience lasting over six hours. Capping it off is a beautiful orchestral soundtrack that is often relaxing and never feels out of place. Throw in the platforming, puzzling and the combinations of both elements, and there’s seldom a dull moment. Unfortunately, it’s held back slightly by a couple of random bugs, text errors and under-preparing the player for some puzzles.
It has to be said that although Forgotton Anne may not blow your mind, it’ll certainly intrigue it and provide a pleasurable gaming and visual experience.