Game Over – Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery (#JustOnePercent 74/100)

Developer: Silver Lining Studio
Release Date: August 25, 2021
MSRP: $12.99

I find more and more lately that I enjoy games that are a compact & satisfying experience, but I am still struggling to shake off my tendency to value games by the quantity of their content. Knowing that the release version of Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery could be easily completed in under an hour, it wasn’t a title I was likely to purchase unless it hit a really deep sale. However, when I noticed it was available on Utomik, and I still had several months on my annual sub, I figured that would be a perfect time to check it out.

Everything about this game is beautiful aesthetically. The animation is movie-quality, the sound design is immersive, and it leads you through a heartwarming little story. However, if you prioritize gameplay, you may find yourself disappointed. This is definitely a game that wants to take you on a journey – the puzzle aspects almost feel like an afterthought.

You play as a young painter, trying to finish up her submission for an art program, but finding herself distracted by everything from missing paint colors, to feline break ins. You needn’t have any artistic aptitude yourself in order to play – the sections which require you to sketch and paint can be a little fiddly, but you don’t have to be particularly accurate in the details, merely the correct color and approximate location will be enough.

As your character notices things, it is on you, the player, to finish making those connections. You can always check your journal in case you’ve forgotten precisely what you’re supposed to be looking for, and I found myself sometimes opening and closing it repeatedly to compare details I needed to solve puzzles. In the whole game, there was only one puzzle I found to be a little frustrating – most of the time, it’s pretty obvious what you need to do to progress.

The base game has six chapters, and will likely take about an hour to go through them all. It’s a self-contained story, but the developers recently released a free DLC with additional story content. The Utomik version says it has been updated, but I couldn’t figure out how to access the new content, and after fiddling around in menus a bit too much, I somehow managed to reset my progress completely, and could only play through from the beginning again. I elected not to.

Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery is not particularly challenging, even for people who don’t go in too much for puzzle games or point and click adventures. Some bits were a little fiddly, but nothing was obscure enough that I felt like I needed to seek out a walkthrough. However, it’s a great argument for games as art in and of themselves. While I’m very glad that I made time to play it, I’m also not disappointed that I don’t own it, as I don’t see any circumstance in which I would feel the need to play it again.

SteamDB estimates that Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery has sold between 67,900 and 186,700 copies on Steam. Reviews are almost entirely positive – it’s not an easy game to dislike – with the few detractors focusing on its length and lack of challenge. It is ranked 77 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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