There will probably never be a time when I’m not tempted by a game that is described as a narrative puzzle game, which is strange, because more often than not, I find them way too heavy on the puzzles and a little bit light on the narrative. I picked up The Almost Gone back in May when it hit 80% off, so I only spent a couple of dollars on it. Still, I wish I had liked it more than I did.
The Almost Gone is a story told in five acts of escape-room style puzzles. You’re granted small bits of narrative while examining your surroundings, and although it’s pretty likely that everything is going to come together in the end, completing each act left me unsatisfied. The majority of puzzles I encountered through the first three acts were logical, but there was definitely a lot of tedious back-tracking that needed to be done in order to figure some of them out without resorting to a walkthrough. In fact, the time I did need to resort to a guide, I was greeted with this:
For me, the progression just felt off. The puzzles didn’t really feel harder as I moved through, just more arduous. It bugged me to no end that the game only allowed you to zoom in on certain slivers of the dioramas, whereas I would have much preferred to control the zoom on my own. Mouse control also felt somewhat clunky, and I think the game is probably far better played on a touchscreen device than a traditional PC (although I can’t even fathom trying to play on a tiny screen, so that would be an issue).
The art and sound are both fantastic, and there was a moment when something seems to be straining to escape from the fridge that I found to be very very creepy. What this game gets right is the atmosphere, the mystery, but at least for me, the pacing was so bad, I couldn’t overcome it, and I usually really enjoy a non-linear story. This one was just a little too darkly tragic, a little too convoluted, and there wasn’t enough there for me to get invested enough to want to transverse seven or eight screens repeatedly to double check for whatever I might have missed that would have allowed me to move forward.
I’m not 100% sure I won’t return to it – it’s a fairly short game, and I bounced off in the middle of the fourth of five chapters. I kind of want to see how it ends, which I guess makes it interesting, but there wasn’t anything making it feel fun for me.
Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Do you enjoy narrative puzzle games? Have you played a good one – or a bad one – recently you want to write about? What’s your favorite narrative puzzle game of all time?