Forgotton Anne Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: ThroughLine Games

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: November 9th 2018

Price as of Article: $17.99 USD, £14.39 GBP

Game code provided by Square Enix for review

Story

Forgotton Anne tells the curious tale of a mysterious world inhabited by everyday items that have been forgotten by their owners in the Ether, our world. Once forgotten, this world is where they magically end up, where they are called ”forgotlings” and are then given a new purpose. Our story centers around the titular young girl, Anne, who wakes up one night to the sound of explosions. Anne has been bestowed the role of Enforcer by Master Bonku, also known as the Creator, to uphold order in the Forgotten Land, so after this harsh wake up call she immediately sets out to check out the situation.

It turns out that a bunch of rebel forgotlings are trying to sabotage Master Bonku’s plans of building a bridge to the Ether, the only means of which any of the Forgotten Land’s inhabitants have any hope of returning to their original owners. Many forgotlings work tirelessly to get on the master’s good side in order to secure a ride to the Ether once the bridge is finished, in hopes of getting back together with whomever lost them, but the rebels seem to have other plans, leading Anne to set out on a truth discovering quest to stop them. A heartwrenching quest that will put her morale and loyalty to the ultimate test.

Forgotton Anne Screenshot

That is as far as I’ll go, as I want you to experience this incredible emotional journey on your own. It would be a huge disservice to a beautiful game whose strongest asset is its story, to spoil anything beyond that for you here.

Gameplay

Forgotton Anne is a 2D puzzle platformer adventure game. You control Anne with the analogue stick, jump with B, interact with characters and objects with A, sprint with ZL/ZR, and once you get your wings early on you can make a high- or long distance jump by holding L or R while jumping, provided you have anima.

Spare or Harvest

Anima is a sort of energy or life force that controls everything in the Forgotten Land. It is like electricity in our world, but it is also the very thing that keeps the forgotlings alive. Sometimes you will come across puzzle mechanisms that need energy, and often there will be anima capsules lying around for that, but other times you may have to sacrifice the life of a forgotling in order to move forward, and though Anne has the ability to freely swap anima between different mechanisms, once a forgotling has been stripped of its life force, ”distilled” as they call it, it can never be reanimated, so choose wisely how you handle your power.

I remember a particular case where I needed energy for a puzzle, and the only way I was going to get some, was from either of two forgotlings, both accusing each other of being a traitor in league with the rebels. I then had to run back and forth between them, listening to both sides of the story, and then make my judgment call. Now of course I could have just been a callous monster and gone with either for the sake of getting a move on, but even though we are dealing with objects in this world and not people, these objects do have personalities, and I didn’t want to hurt them unless I absolutely needed to.

Forgotton Anne Screenshot 2

Anima gives wings

With a push of the X button you gain access to Anne’s diary that automatically gets updated after an event, as well as her collection of mementos and documents that sometimes just serve as world builders and other times as clues. With the Y button you enter a state where you can see the flow of anima around you, and it is in this state that you can use the cursor of your Arca, a device Anne has on her hand, along with the A button to tap anima from either forgotlings, anima capsules, or circuits that happen to be in the area, and if a particular puzzle requires you to re-route circuits of anima, this is also where you do that.

A thing I found a little odd about the design choice of this mechanic is that you have an Anima Meter with what seems to be 4 units, but anything you tap anima from will completely fill this meter, and anything you transfer anima to will completely drain it, so why cut it up in four units in the first place instead of one whole? This also feels like a missed opportunity, as being able to upgrade this device, granting Anne all sorts of new anima related abilities could really have spiced up the gameplay and given more opportunities for creative puzzles and mechanics. You can also only use your wings or re-route circuits if you have your meter charged, but what I don’t get, is why using your wings doesn’t consume energy at all when it is required to use them.

Finding the balance

Forgotton Anne is a beautiful game, it is almost like playing an interactive Ghibli feature, but it is unfortunately also one of those games that doesn’t seem to quite hit the mark on balancing gameplay and story telling. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of the story, I got invested in the characters, and many of the branching conversations really put me on edge between what I thought was right or wrong. But often, it feels like you are just guiding Anne along a linear path or platform section until the next story bit happens, and when a puzzle finally does hinder your progression, there isn’t a lot of variation to them.

Forgotton Anne Screenshot 3

Movie vs. Game

Forgotton Anne, is one of a kind and a great playable cartoon, it does however feel like that sometimes comes at the cost of it forgetting it is also a game. Again I will emphasize that this didn’t ruin my overall experience, I just found it to be one of the game’s weaker points. In some instances, the logic puzzles reminded me a bit of Limbo from Playdead Games, another Danish studio, and while that game also had a story to tell, albeit a subtle one, it had a much stronger focus on the gameplay.

Now of course, these are two widely different games with two very different visions, but I feel a perfect balance is possible between story telling and gameplay.

So about that gameplay

Those, however, are pretty much the only gripes I have with the game, as other than that it is an absolute joy to play and see Anne’s character grow as she learns more about herself, the world she lives in, and the truth about the Forgotten Land. She feels just right to control too, has the right amount of weight to her, and all of her actions are beautifully animated. Oh, I should mention, there is no fall damage in this game, you don’t even have lives, in fact… you can’t actually die as there’s no combat or hostile enemies in this game.

The game also advertises that you unlock different abilities and areas as you progress, but unless I have misunderstood something, that doesn’t appear to entirely be the case. As I just said, the game is very linear, and aside from your Arca that allows you to manipulate anima, and your mechanical anima fueled wings, you don’t really learn a whole lot of new tricks. Again, something I feel could have been expanded on. You do find ”hidden” collectibles in the form of the previously mentioned mementos, but these are always out in the open and easy to see. I love a game that rewards my curiousity, and where I feel that progression makes me stronger and more capable, but of all the feelings this game awakens in me, that is unfortunately not one of them.

Forgotton Anne Screenshot 4

Audio

Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, ThroughLine Games were awarded a sum of 100.000DKK (approx. $15.000) that went into having the game’s score fully orchestrated by the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, and it shows. Every moment in the game is brought to life, and the moment you run past the booming titlescreen in the beginning, there is no doubt in your mind that this is going to be an epic adventure. It actually intimidated me a bit.

Forgotton Anne is also fully voiced, save for Anne’s inner thoughts, with a wide cast of colourful and memorable characters who all do a great and convincing job of bringing the world to life and make it feel believable. Sometimes, when running through an area, you will even hear random offscreen NPC’s small talk in the background, either about you, what they think of the rebellion, or just their own personal problems, and because I was so invested in the world, I always stopped to eavesdrop on everything they had to say.

If I can come with one minor critique in this department, it is that the soundmixing can be a bit spotty at times. Sometimes, if the background noises were too loud, I’d have trouble hearing what the characters were saying even with the volume turned up, had it not been for the subtitles.

Visuals & Performance

The visuals in Forgotton Anne are beautiful, they are handdrawn and a true sight to behold, you can’t play this game and not feel yourself drawn into this curious world and get totally mesmerized in its top notch atmosphere. The game also runs like a dream, I didn’t encounter any bugs or stutters, and the traditionally animated cutscenes that are definitely one of the game’s major selling points, are seamlessly woven into the gameplay. Animation is an expensive and time consuming process, so the cutscenes are a bit on the minimalistic side with an obvious cut in frames, but I still very much admire ThroughLine Games for going through with their idea and what they managed to accomplish with the budget they had.

Likewise, I was very impressed with every single animation that has gone into breathing Anne to life: when she leaps from building to building, when she pulls a handle and you feel the weight of it, and even when she rolls on the ground after a high fall. I can’t imagine how many indiviual frames of animation have gone into our main heroine, but not since Wario Land: The Shake Dimension on Wii has an animated game impressed me this much.

Forgotton Anne Screenshot 5

Living a Ghibli Film

Personally, as a gamer and huge Studio Ghibli fan, I have always found it a massive missed opportunity why they have never had videogames made off of their films, so for ThroughLine Games to finally make a game with a Ghibli inspired artstyle is a dream come true for me.

Value

For $19.99/£15.99, Forgotton Anne is an absolute steal with how much love and effort has gone into it. The story clocks in at around 10 hours and although I feel it priorities story and presentation over actual gameplay, it is still one of those games where you can feel all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it. It is even on a 10% launch sale at the moment of writing, so if you appreciate games that are hand animated, and you love puzzle platformers with an engaging story where your choices shape the tale, then Forgotton Anne is most definitely worth you hard earned cash!

I may feel a bit unfullfilled in the gameplay department, but aside from that, Forgotton Anne absolutely shattered every single high expectation I had for it.

Pros

P

Hand-animated cutscenes

P

Amazing orchestrated soundtrack

P

Great atmosphere

P

Deep thought provoking story

Cons

P

Few and repetitive puzzles

P

Would have liked more abilities