Forgotton Anne Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on PC, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
What happens to all the forgotten items in the world? Your old socks that end up lost under a bed? a lamp you haven't used for years, stuck in a cupboard and ignored? the clock in a house no longer lived in? In the world of Forgotton Anne, the answer is that they end up in another world, gaining sentience and longing to return to their owners.
Or that's the story they are told. But do they all want to return home? and is everything that they believe real? That's the central conceit that drives the story.
You play Anne, the 'Enforcer'. One of only two humans that inhabit the 'Forgotton' world that we are aware of. Her job is very much judge, jury and executioner and using a special device she can distill any 'Forgotling' that doesn't play by the rules removing their life force and returning them to the inanimate objects they were in the human world. In the opening moments Anne comes face to face with a Rebel in the form of a scarf - with no ID and following an explosion - and right away you're given the choice through the branching dialogue in what action to take.
It's a credit to the game that the first time you're asked to distil a Forgotling it elicits a feeling of discomfort and later when the action of distillation is tantamount to torture really brings home how conflicted a character Anne is at the beginning of the tale.
It becomes your task, through Anne, to find the other Rebels and deal with them - how you do this and how hard a line you take will influence how the game plays out and it soon becomes clear that the Rebels have a real cause and belief in what they're doing. Their plan is to stop the creation of the 'Ether Bridge' which the Forgotlings are promised by their leader will reunite them with their owners; the rebels believing their new sentient lives to be the better of the two options.
The style throughout is truly remarkable - not only is the story something that you'd half expect to come from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki; the idea of sentient forgotten objects feels very much like it would be taken from the mind library Studio Ghibli's leading light, the animation and artwork owes a lot to some of Miyazaki's finest work - with hints of Kiki in the visual appearance of Anne. The full screen cut scenes are just as lovely showcasing a real artistic talent. This feels entirely as though you're experiencing a lost Ghibli film from the inside.
As a platformer the game may feel a little stilted at time - but it's forgiving and when you treat the game more as an interactive anime this feeling drops away quickly. The puzzling and story are the focus and they both carry the game wonderfully - most puzzles are logic based, mainly focusing on the routing of 'Arca' - both the life force of the Forgotlings and the energy that powers the world - to activate the right areas of the map's functionality. Arca is a limited resource and can only be found in the game in canisters around the map and through Anne's execution and distilling of Forgotlings. You really don't want to be doing the latter very often as the pang of guilt is increasingly tangible the deeper in to the game you go.
The puzzling is gentle at first and while it does get more taxing, they never become infuriating and the solutions are always in reach. There's no traipsing backwards and forwards over large areas of the map which helps to ensure the story continues to progress at a decent pace. The world backdrops look stunning and there's a depth that becomes important as the game progresses as you can moved backwards and forward through the scenery - while the game is largely 2D this adds extra layers of interest to both the look and the problem solving.
The utterly brilliant Rachael Messer carries the game from start to finish with her portrayal of Anne - the game needed a strong vocal performance at the centre and Messer delivers this brilliantly. The rest of the voice cast is diverse with accents from all over the English-speaking world represented and plenty of UK centric voices making themselves loud and clear. Special shout outs have to go to Amelia Tyler and Jay Britton who both provide a huge number of individual characters to the game.
The story runs for around 6-8 hours and other than the final slightly misjudged 'boss' battle, it's a perfectly scripted and tightly told tale. It feels as though the story was a struggle to resolve and dropping back to conventional gaming tropes at the last minute is a minor cop-out. But it doesn't in any way detract from the rest of the experience.
Forgotton Anne is a passion project from the start. Danish developer, ThroughLine Games, have created here a game that ticks both the boxes for quality gameplay AND artistic achievement. Studio founder Alfred Nguyen started his career in film before moving his talents to more a interactive medium and this game brings together his passions of gaming and film flawlessly. Top marks to both Nguyen and Morten Brunbjerg for scripting such a wonderful story, without which Forgotton Anne could be a hollow experience no matter how good it looked.
For all of this, ThroughLine Games deserve huge applause for creating what will certainly be looked upon as a classic in the genre in years to come. Not only that, they deserve Forgotton Anne to go down as a hit so get out there and order your copy right now!