Do you have a habit of misplacing your belongings? If so, then chances are, you’ve added plenty of new denizens to the population of the Forgotten Lands, the fantastical setting of ThroughLine Games’ Forgotton Anne. Yes, the title is intentionally mis-spelt. Published by Square Enix Collective, Forgotton Anne blends a Studio Ghibli-esque anime aesthetic with rotoscope animation-inspired puzzle-platforming gameplay, making it a very interesting blend of modern technical ambition and interestingly old-school gameplay ideas. Think Spirited Away meets old-school, pre-Ubisoft Prince of Persia, and you’ll be on the right track.
Boasting impeccable style and creativity, Forgotton Anne quickly establishes itself as being a clear cut above many indie gaming efforts, easily drawing players into its colourful, character-filled world of living discarded items, and a lone human ‘enforcer’ for said items as the player character. There’s a surprising degree of depth to both the linear exploration and the storytelling, which spins a morally complex yarn that empowers players to steer their character’s agenda along two very different paths, or possibly stand somewhere in between their extremes. There are some small gameplay stumbles that occasionally disturb the experience, but it’s never enough to ruin the potent atmosphere or charm. If you’ve always been open to the idea of finding magic in the mundane, or simply enjoy a good thinking player’s platformer, then you’ll find Forgotton Anne to be quite difficult to put down!
Forgotton Anne is a gorgeous, charmingly animated game on any platform. Its wonderful hand-drawn anime-style graphics are a very impressive sight to behold for an indie game especially, and would even stand out quite easily in a full-priced triple-A game too! Some of the pre-rendered cutscenes animate a bit stiffly, but that hardly matters when the visual design is so outstanding throughout. Gameplay performance is also never an issue, regardless of your platform of choice, though it’s also true that Forgotton Anne’s movement and navigation is very deliberate, a la the old-school rotoscope animation games that it clearly takes inspiration from. The outstanding commitment to detailed, immersive movement and environmental design, for Anne herself, and every other character and world feature in the Forgotten Lands, truly emulates the experience that you’re playing a Studio Ghibli movie, albeit one that Studio Ghibli didn’t have any actual involvement with.
As far as differences between platforms go, you aren’t really getting any noteworthy ones to speak of. Even on PC, Forgotton Anne boasts pretty modest system requirements that allow it to run with ease on most any computer that’s at least within a few years old, though it does seem to get along best with Windows 10 computers, as its Steam page indicates, even if it technically supports Windows 7 onward, and is also pretty easy to run on a Mac. There aren’t any real differences to speak of between PS4 or Xbox One either. Both the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Forgotton Anne appear to effortlessly render in 1080p resolution, and neither console version appears to boast any noticeable upgrades on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X console. No matter how you prefer to play, Forgotton Anne offers the same great artistic experience, with nary a performance hiccup or visual downgrade to be seen.
Forgotton Anne boasts an impeccable soundtrack that’s put together very much like that of an animated movie. There’s a lot of hearty, yet charming orchestra throughout the musical score, which nicely complements the backdrop of whichever set piece you’re currently enjoying. There are some tunes that are more lively, though much of the soundtrack is also very quiet and ambient, nicely enhancing the atmosphere of the visuals by lending to a world that’s as mysterious as it is full of imagination. There’s also just the right touch of melancholy to the soundtrack as well, which fits with a world that is vibrant and fun, but also has an air of sadness. That makes sense, since this is, after all, a world built from the forgotten belongings of oblivious human beings.
The sound effects are often very quiet, with even the violent ‘distilling’ of Forgotlings, the citizens of the Forgotten Lands that Anne can sometimes spare or suck the life from, generating an almost eerily quiet effect. Fortunately however, the game never becomes too drab to listen to, as some very spirited and well-done voice acting complements every single featured personality. Anne herself is a bold, impressive hero, and the many formerly inanimate objects of the Forgotten Lands all have their own distinct dialects and personalities, leading to a game setting that constantly feels diverse, alive and full of surprises. Naturally this also helps further enhance the game’s inspired storytelling, which is made all the better when it’s brought to life by Hollywood-quality voice work throughout.
The progression of Forgotton Anne is very simple, and even someone who isn’t well initiated with video games should grasp how to play it before long. The controls may take some getting used to even for more experienced gamers however, especially since there are a few strange button placements, which isn’t helped by the naturally rigid and deliberate rotoscope-style movement. Once you start getting a handle on where every function is though, navigating Forgotton Anne’s gameplay challenges isn’t difficult, especially when so much of the game simply involves you proceeding between set pieces in order to move the story forward. Anne doesn’t even have a life bar, nor is there a fail state, so even if you fall short on a jump, or run afoul of some dangerous obstacles, you’ll never need to fear the death of your heroine, nor being booted back to former checkpoints.
At its core, Forgotton Anne is a puzzle-platformer, relying on a combination of linear two-dimensional movement, precise leaping and puzzle-solving to proceed through the game’s world. The puzzle mechanics aren’t generally too complicated, but they have enough creativity to often feel satisfying. Many of them work by having Anne absorb and redirect the life energy of the Forgotten Lands, Anima, which is used both as a power source, and as the literal embodiment of life among the Forgotten Lands’ citizens. Anne can absorb Anima to de-power the Forgotten Lands’ steampunk-esque machines, and then move it somewhere else to power new paths forward, just as she can also use it to do things like re-arrange platforming obstacles, or even draw/repel environmental forces that can both help and hinder Anne’s progress. The game helpfully points out what you can do with your Anima in any given scene as well, since you can use one of the face buttons to trigger ‘Anima Vision’ at any time, conveniently highlighting where Anne’s Anima can be absorbed from, and what it can be used with.
Anima comes into play when dealing with the Forgotlings of the Forgotten Lands as well, especially since Anne is the ‘enforcer’ that is meant to keep all of the Forgotlings in line. Players can decide whether to make Anne a feared bruiser who ‘distills’ (read: kills) any Forgotling that crosses her, or a more compassionate officer of the law that tries to help out where she can. Doing extra favours for the Forgotlings can sometimes be beneficial too, on top of earning you a few extra achievements/trophies, if you’re into that sort of thing. Xbox One players may want to be advised however that Forgotton Anne is one of those rare, cheeky games that doesn’t give Gamerscore in multiples of 5, despite the achievements still adding up to the usual 1000G, so bear that in mind if you’re concerned about the nice round number on your Xbox Gamertag!
Still, Forgotton Anne is often so lovable and engrossing that completionists will delight in exploring in its many corners and optional story paths. I do wish it was easier to make multiple saves on consoles (you more or less have to resort to USB storage accessories if you want to make multiple save files in one playthrough, on both PS4 and Xbox One), but that’s a minor nitpick, especially since you can replay any story scenario you wish once you’ve completed the game for the first time. Forgotton Anne is also progressed in a fully linear fashion, despite still giving you some decent room to explore each gameplay segment as you amass Anima, interact with Forgotlings and solve puzzles, so beyond a handful of branching achievements/trophies that may require you to go back with Chapter Select after finishing the story, you’ll never be unprepared for later challenges because you didn’t do a certain side quest, or anything of the sort.
Some of the gameplay scenarios really are delightful and fun to replay too, with players likely choosing different story paths that will take Anne down a potentially very different destiny. There’s only a few frustrating spots here and there, whether it’s a less enjoyable puzzle that isn’t that efficient to solve, or a more fast-paced platforming section that predictably won’t get along with the very deliberate, slow-paced control scheme. Most of the creative and varied challenges are entertaining however, and don’t allow players to settle into a predictable groove of gameplay. This is down to effective use of the handful of simple gameplay mechanics, whether it’s the Anima hook, the ability to decide the fates of certain Forgotlings, or Anne’s wing pack that allows her to make certain longer or higher jumps. Don’t expect a fast-paced experience, since Forgotton Anne definitely takes its time with every gameplay and story element, but if you’re not in a hurry, then you’ll find lots to love and remember throughout this 8-10-hour odyssey through the Forgotten Lands.
Forgotton Anne’s storyline is full of unexpected twists and curveballs, and as you can imagine, not everything is as it seems in the Forgotten Lands. The game begins with Anne dispatched to investigate the recent destructive handiwork of some Forgotling rebels, and from there, players will become ever more drawn into a mystery that has implications on the entire world of the Forgotten Lands, as well as Anne’s own reasoning for being among a world of forgotten objects. The core story events are more or less the same regardless of how players develop Anne’s personality, but it’s definitely a nice touch to see Forgotlings’ dialogue realistically change depending on how players have behaved, referencing past gameplay events that players changed, and sometimes bringing up when Anne has done something to scare or inspire the Forgotling populace, depending on the players’ former choices.
There’s some high emotion at play in the game’s latter half especially, all of which culminates in a genuinely heart-wrenching choice in the climax, which can give Anne and the Forgotten Lands two very different endings. The early portions of Forgotton Anne’s plot definitely unfold in a slow burn though, and impatient players may find that the game does take a little while to get going, especially when Anne doesn’t meet many of the game’s best characters until later in the story. When all is said and done however, Forgotton Anne’s plot feels both emotional and gratifying to experience, making you laugh, shed a couple of tears, and maybe even re-think the value behind your own material amassing in life.
Forgotton Anne may be occasionally slow-paced, and it may have a couple of small design hiccups here and there, but these tiny gripes can’t possibly disturb the otherwise gorgeous, highly memorable experience that players will have when enjoying what the Forgotten Lands has to offer. At a price of $19.99 USD, the value is just right for the game’s length, as well as its simple, yet refined selection of well-executed gameplay features, particularly with a solid moral choice mechanic that allows players to be the kind of enforcer they want to be throughout their journey. Fans of anime, puzzles, great storytelling, fantastical adventure and/or rotoscope-style gaming classics will all find plenty to love about Forgotton Anne, especially when it’s another ingenious testament to what can be done with the popular open-source Unity game engine when it’s in the right hands.
There may not be anything truly revolutionary about the gameplay of Forgotton Anne, which is a pleasantly straightforward puzzle-platformer that mainly defines itself on its story and visuals, but it’s mostly well-designed and clearly made with a lot of heart. This game may be about the plight of being forgotten, but open-hearted gamers certainly won’t forget about this breathtaking odyssey through a world built by the cast-offs of our own.
This review is based on an Xbox One copy of, “Forgotton Anne” provided by Square Enix Collective.
- Breathtaking anime-esque visuals that wonderfully flex the Unity Engine
- Deep, heartfelt storyline that allows players to make their own choices
- Many satisfying puzzles and locations to explore
- Some slight control issues
- The early sections can be a bit slow