Quick Look – Cryofall (#JustOnePercent #29/100)

Developer: Atomic Torch Studio
Release Date: April 29, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

Cryofall was part of the February 2020 Humble Choice, while it was still in Early Access. At the time, the only play choices were either player versus player or more cooperative servers, but it was designed to be an entirely online multiplayer experience. I was fairly sure that was going to mean it was Not For Me, even though I usually enjoy colony sims. I gave it a few hours anyway, and the thing that confirmed for me that – at least in its state at the time – that I wasn’t going to keep playing was the fact that your claim would experience decay, and eventual destruction, between play sessions. I knew that I didn’t have the time (or the desire, truthfully) to commit to it, so I wandered off and forgot about it entirely.

Cryofall fully released in April of 2021, and in October, they did the one thing that would draw me back in – they released a single player, decay-free way to play. This quick look is going to focus exclusively on the single player options & experience introduced in the R31 update.

I’m going to lead with my conclusion: I didn’t not enjoy the game, but I’m not sure I have any interest in returning to it. I like the gameplay loop of Cryofall; gather resources, discover new things, use Learning Points from quests & discoveries on your tech tree to be able to craft and construct things. The survival mechanics weren’t really to my taste (especially considering how much effort goes into keeping yourself fed & hydrated early on), and I wish that your character would start with basic tools and weapons if you’re going to be in an unsafe place right off the bat.

I did as the game suggested, and played on Survival difficulty (making sure, of course, that decay was turned off), but I think – for me – the game might be more enjoyable on Paradise, or by tweaking the settings. The early game is a whole lot of picking things up and trying to avoid all the things that want to murder you. It doesn’t take terribly long until the game walks you through getting your basic tools and weapons, but I still managed to get myself eaten by a wolf fairly early on.

A lot of things just felt like they were a smidgen off. I don’t much care for the land claim mechanic in a single player game – I much prefer just being able to build where I want. I dropped my initial settlement in the closest safe spot once I received a quest to do so, and now I feel tied to a spot I’m not sure I much care for. A pretty significant amount of resources go into the most basic of buildings, and there are a lot of things to gather, so I could see inventory becoming a real issue before too long.

I’m not 100% sure that this particular game translates well to a single player experience, although I can see how it would be a pretty cool buy-to-play survival MMO. Playing on my own, I can see a lot of things becoming tedious really quickly. Although I do really appreciate the fact that Atomic Torch Studio put the effort they did into making Cryofall work as a single player game, in a lot of ways, it feels like they did little more than give you an option to turn the other players off. Maybe a lot of this could be massaged into something more to my taste through choosing a different difficulty, and customizing the way my personal server works, but I’m not sure I’m engaged enough to put in the effort.

Any sort of indie MMO is kind of a tough prospect, never mind one that punishes you for not playing, so it doesn’t surprise me that Cryofall wasn’t a huge breakout hit.  SteamDB estimates that Cryofall has sold between 94,100 and 258,700 copies on Steam, although Humble Choice subscribers and bundle buyers may have boosted that a bit over what it would have sold otherwise. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been able to maintain consistently high player counts. It is ranked 2072 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Robin Hood: Hail to the King (#JustOnePercent 28/100)

Developer: GameOn Production
Release Date: April 28, 2021
MSRP: $6.99

The past couple of weeks, there’s a thing that’s been going around Twitter that goes something like “Post your opinion about [fill in the blank] that will get you cancelled”. It’s just the latest version of hot takes (personally, I tend to prefer lukewarm takes, but that’s just me), but it definitely got me thinking about some of my opinions that run pretty much contrary to what seems to be whatever is currently being shouted the loudest.

I say this because I’m about to drop one of those opinions that will get me kicked out of the Serious Gamer Club*: I think that games that fall under the genre label of “casual” don’t get half the respect they deserve. As a result, the companies that put out these games – which are, by and large, free from bugs, by the way – aren’t considered “real” game developers.

* Just kidding, y’all. If there were a Serious Gamer Club, they certainly wouldn’t let me in.

When I spotted Robin Hood: Hail to the King available to play on Utomik (which is far & away the best value subscription service for us plebeians who like things like time management and hidden object games), and I had some gaps in my lineup this month (as Runeverse has already been taken offline, and Invisible Wings turned out to be a demo of an yet-unreleased game), I decided to embrace my inner casual and give it a whirl. On normal. Because I figure I’m pretty badass at time management games.

About ten levels in, and I’m sorry to report, I am getting my ass handed to me, but I’m also enjoying myself more than I have in most of the games I’ve played thus far this month.

The story is absolutely forgettable, but I’m fairly sure most people aren’t playing time management games for the story. The first couple levels are painfully easy (and completely hand-hold-y), but it doesn’t take long for a three-star clear to require both speed and precision. If you choose a suboptimal path, or spend your resources inefficiently, you can kiss your third star (and maybe your second one as well) goodbye. I now understand why this game has an easy mode.

There are static resources, that block your paths and can only be picked up once. Then there are resources, like berry bushes and lumber mills, which keep producing. Demolishing barricades, doing repairs, setting traps, and rescuing allies all have set resource costs from the four basic types (food, wood, rope, and gold). Hovering something like a broken bridge will show you what you need to be able to proceed. The main level objectives are listed at the bottom of the screen, but those aren’t the only things that will require your resources.

You start off with just Robin Hood and Little John, but as you progress through the early levels, you unlock other characters that will help you along the way. Each character has a unique ability, and you will have to choose which characters you take to each level, as well as the order in which they appear. Between levels, you can upgrade their abilities with the gold you’ve obtained from heist levels.

This is an honest to goodness strategy game, friends, just wrapped in a casual game package.

There are 41 levels included in the game (this includes both standard and heist levels), and it took me a little over an hour to complete 9 of them. Even without star-chasing, you could easily get four or more hours out of this one, and it’s one of four games in the same series available on Steam.

Casual games on PC just aren’t hugely successful, even ones distributed by a publisher like Alawar. SteamDB estimates that Robin Hood: Hail to the King has sold between 200 and 600 copies on Steam, and as a result, hasn’t gotten much in the way of reviews (although it’s still rated Positive based on the handful it has received) It is ranked 5653 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (#JustOnePercent 27/100)

Developer: Snoozy Kazoo
Release Date: April 22, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

I don’t play too many things outside my comfort zone anymore, but getting games I just might like to take out for a spin is still one of my favorite parts of buying bundles. I picked up the November 2021 Humble Choice almost exclusively for House Flipper, but Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion looked close enough to something I might get an hour or so of fun out of that I activated that one as well. As it turns out, this game is Not Really For Me, but in the time I spent with it, I can see why it was a hit for so many people.

I started off trying to play on keyboard, and it didn’t take me long to realize that this title is closer to “controller required” than “controller friendly” (although I probably could have rebound the keys to something less awkward, the default “controller to keyboard” setup is one I always struggle with). I was getting Dark Soulsed by trash mobs. Coming back in with a controller was better overall, and this game would probably be very well suited to a handheld console like the Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch, where it is also available.

That said, there’s a few deliberate design choices that most players will either love or hate. First is how self-referential and “meme-ified” the game is. Although (just barely) less than a year old, there’s already some things in Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion that already feel dated – internet culture just moves too damn fast to ever really feel safe in a video game. Secondly, I’d say easily half the games very short play time is going to be spent talking to absolutely everyone, and then backtracking. It’s not a game that really needs a quest log, but I absolutely would have made use of it if one was present. The size of the game world is small enough that you can just go talk to everyone if you can’t remember who wanted that thing you just found, but it’s kind of annoying to need to.

If you’re meticulous about talking to everyone, and you have a decent affinity for these types of puzzles, the entire game could probably be beaten in just slightly more time than it would take to watch your average movie. It’s meant to be short, and somehow, it still felt a bit bloated to me, probably due to being only a few areas requiring multiple trips back and forth. The average bad guy combat is perhaps too simple, and bosses aren’t much harder if you make use of the very obvious gimmick in the boss room. It’s a rare game that I like the combat part better than the quests and puzzles, but combat is quick and straightforward, while the rest of the game feels drawn out and a bit convoluted.

Achievement hunters may be delighted how fast and furious new nerd points seem to pop up, and there are hats and documents for the folks who are into collectibles. While I can acknowledge that there’s some good stuff here, it just wasn’t to my personal taste. For a light fun time, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion might just hit the spot, or it could just leave you hungry for something more substantial.

The upside of having a funny, meme-tastic game is that it just might go viral. SteamDB estimates that Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion has sold between 108,300 and 292,900 copies on Steam. Almost 95% of reviews are positive, and that’s out of a pretty significant number of reviews. It is ranked 136 out of 10,967 games released in 2021, a great showing for a short game about a vegetable tearing up every piece of paper he comes across.

Quick Look – Nanotale: Typing Chronicles

Developer: Fishing Cactus
Release Date: March 31, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

Nanotale – Typing Chronicles is not one of my 100 games for the #JustOnePercent project because it was released more than one year ago, although just barely. It’d been on my wish list since before it was released, but I didn’t actually pick it up until it was given away as part of Prime Gaming‘s April 2022 offerings. It’s available to claim until May 2, 2022.

Although it took me a couple tries to really get into it, I loved everything about Epistory -Typing Chronicles. When I first tried it out back in September of 2016, it didn’t quite grab me, but I went back to it in June of the following year, I absolutely devoured it. When Fishing Cactus announced a sequel in Nanotale – Typing Chronicles, I knew I wanted to play it, but a full library and an almost pathological need to get a good deal meant I never actually got around to buying it.

Nanotale is also an absolutely gorgeous game, but in an entirely different way, which – at least for me – was a bit disappointing. It also seems to suffer a bit from sequel-itis – it holds onto the core of what made the first game enjoyable, but then keeps adding more. Obviously, it’s been awhile since I played Epistory, but I don’t remember too many side quests, or a strong emphasis on collectibles. It’s entirely possible that’s not true, and I just recall the things that made it magical for me.

I’m trying hard to look at Nanotale on its own, and not get overly bogged down in comparisons to a game I played quite some time ago, but considering how unique the series is, it’s not always easy to do. When the game is flowing well, it’s a delight to play. When it’s trying to be a bit too clever for its own good, it’s a chore. More than once, I needed to find a walkthrough to figure out what the game wanted me to do; objectives aren’t always clear, and map markers are almost completely useless. I will say I wasn’t particularly inclined to hunt collectibles, and I ignored a hefty amount of side quests.

I put in about five hours before deciding to shelf it. The third major area is by far the most challenging to navigate, and I probably spent at least 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get where I need to go next, as none of the paths available to me seem to lead there, and I found myself getting physically stuck more often and needing to use the Respawn function. While it’s great that that’s an option, the feeling of being waylaid by bugs so often is discouraging.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t rush to get my hands on Nanotale – Typing Chronicles, but I’m happy to have had the opportunity to play around with it. I will probably give it another go eventually, and maybe things will click better for me than they did this time around.

Quick Look – Secret Government (#JustOnePercent 26/100)

Developer: Game Trek
Release Date: April 15, 2021
MSRP: $24.99

Disclaimer: I played significantly less than an hour of this title.

I usually do okay with most strategy games. Sure, I might set the difficulty options extra low to start out, but once I get the hang of it, I can usually ease my way up a tick or two until I’m playing at least close to the default difficultly. However, there’s something about the learning curve of grand strategy games that just kills any desire I might have to play them. I was hoping an indie grand strategy title might be a little easier to wrap my brain around, but unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to put Secret Government on the shelf next to the Crusader Kings games, where I’d really really like to, but I just cannot.

Honestly, I’m more than a little mad about this one. The concept is fantastic – you control a secret society who meddles in the affairs of the world to shape the future to their liking. Everything must be done without anyone knowing who is behind it. I was really into the whole introduction, especially the gorgeous art. I found myself looking forward to the tutorial!

First problem is there are only two scenarios in the game, and then a sandbox mode. I don’t know how long each scenario ideally takes to play, but I think most people would agree, if a game isn’t going to go full sandbox, two scenarios just isn’t sufficient. This was the first time I found myself concerned that the game might not have been quite ready yet, but was instead yanked from the oven prematurely.

The tutorial – and I feel like that’s a generous term – did nothing to assuage my fears. It basically reiterated the general concept, and then sent me out to sink or swim. I sank.

The amount of information at your fingertips in Secret Government is immense, the problem is finding it. I spent some time clicking around and hoping for the best, and some time trying to read everything on screen and make some sort of sense of it. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a message that I completed a step of one of my goals, and then realized I only very vaguely even knew what my goals were. I had no idea where to find that information, so I kept clicking randomly with the game clock paused until stumbling upon the correct button. Now I had my goals, but I still had no idea how to implement them.

Soon after that, I realized I was just staring blankly at the screen. It was like some secret society had infiltrated my head and removed my brain. I’m not sure if Secret Government is actually withholding critical intelligence from the player, or I’m just not adept enough at this genre to make a fair go of it with what little I knew. I suppose it’s not a surprising turn of events, given my lack of success with this genre in the past, but it was a bit of a disappointment nonetheless.

I hope mediocre reviews of their first major title don’t discourage Game Trek from giving it another go, because they’ve clearly got some good ideas. SteamDB estimates that Secret Government has sold between 4,600 and 12,700 copies on Steam, and it started appearing in bundles in the fourth quarter of 2021. Reviews have been mixed, with many detractors citing the user interface and tutorial as impediments to playing the game. It is ranked 7109 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Ashwalkers (#JustOnePercent 25/100)

Developer: Nameless XIII
Release Date: April 15, 2021
MSRP: $11.99

Generally speaking, I like story heavy games. I’m not put off by a “lack of game play” if the story is good, and presented in a way that makes sense. Now, that’s last part is important; gameplay choices need to support the story. Ashwalkers comes close to striking this balance, but at least for me, it was more miss than hit.

To start with, a minor gripe: there was really no tutorial, and there was also no way (that I could find) to even open a “how to play” menu. As far as I could tell, this is a mouse-only game, and I was frustrated early on by not being able to left click some things, with no indication of what I needed to do instead. It took me quite a while before I right clicked and discovered that’s how you change which character is walking in front of the party, and as such, will do the resource collection by default. Since every time you collect a resource, you take an energy hit, knowing how to switch between characters is pretty important right from the beginning.

You’re given a pre-constructed four person party, and dropped into the middle of their journey. The game starts on Day 13, and is divided into expeditions based on story progression. If there’s any actual stats based combat, I never saw any – everything I accomplished (or failed to accomplish) during my play session was predicated on text choices. I felt like there was a lot of potential for the story to have been something truly captivating, but the structure of the game as a whole just doesn’t lead itself to a tight narrative.

The entire game exists in shades of grey, with the exception of an occasional bit of red to draw your eye to something you probably should have been paying attention to sooner. The music is fittingly melancholy, after all, you’re managing a pilgrimage through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The majority of the game play consists of resource gathering, managing your party after making camp, and walking oh-so-slowly through terrain that manages to be both achingly beautiful and incredibly boring to navigate.

That’s where it all sort of fell apart for me. Too much time is spent on the least interesting part of the game. There are no visual indications of story beats, and your characters will stutter-step through them if you’ve clicked ahead of the trigger spot, which is, quite frankly, very distracting. There’s no map (that I could find), and the fixed camera was annoying at best, and downright confusing at times. It sounds weird to say in a game that is very clear that the play is not the most important thing, but it didn’t take long for me to feel like the whole thing was far too tedious.

More than once, I found myself thinking about ICY, a game with a similar concept I played quite a few years ago. What it lacked in graphics, it more than made up for in making me want to keep playing. Ashwalkers didn’t do that – in fact, I ended up bailing in the middle of the third expedition when I found myself in a building that I couldn’t figure out how to navigate. I really wanted to like this one, but as it turns out, it just wasn’t for me, but someone with more patience and a better sense of direction might have fared better.

SteamDB estimates that Ashwalkers has sold between 2,900 and 8,000 copies on Steam, but it was also given away back in February of 2022. Reviews have been mostly positive, so it seems to have found its audience. It is ranked 3176 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Rain On Your Parade (#JustOnePercent 24/100)

Developer: Unbound Creations
Release Date: April 15, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

There’s something strangely compelling about a game that demands you create chaos, and that is pretty much the entire point of Rain On Your Parade. Technically, it’s a puzzle game, but most levels aren’t all that tricky to complete. In fact, you can probably finish the entire game in a single evening. Sure, there are a few optional objectives that will make you feel clever for a moment when you figure them out, and there are a few somewhat-out-of-place stealth levels, but for the most part, you’re here to ruin someone’s … or rather everyone’s … day.

After all, what loftier goal for rain cloud than to do what you exist to do – rain on things. At first, that’s exactly what you do. Some levels only give you a limited amount of water to soak everything you need to soak. Some levels let you refill your water meter over and over. Just as you’re getting comfortable with the idea of just being a force of chaos via water, the game steps it up a bit.

Yep, on some levels you can pick up other liquids and rain with those. Find a flame, put down a trail of oil, and you’re now setting the world on fire instead of getting it wet. If there’s a conceivable way that you can ruin someone’s day with liquid from the sky, you’re probably going to be tasked with it eventually.

There are also abilities that unlock as you proceed through the game. First, you can put down some thunder, which startles people and creates small sparks of lightning. Then you get the ability to snow, which leads to some really deviously delightful interactions. I played about half of the game, and I’m guessing there’s another ability or two I have yet to unlock.

On most levels, if you meet all optional objectives, you’re rewarded with a cosmetic for your cloud. You can also change your color and redraw your face in the Cloud Home. If you’re really into collectibles, it’s worth looking around outside of the levels for things you might be able to effect – there are random cosmetic unlockables for a cloud who likes to explore.

Make no mistake, Rain On Your Parade isn’t a particularly difficult game. Most progression objectives have fairly obvious solutions, and even the optional ones are, by and large, not that challenging. If I had any criticism, it would be that there are some levels that take you out of your power fantasy of dropping rain and snow on … well, pretty much everything. Mostly, it’s just pure, silly, mischievous fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously, or even seriously at all.

SteamDB estimates somewhere between 10,600 and 29,200 people own Rain On Your Parade on Steam. While that’s not amazing sales numbers, reviews have been almost uniformly positive, leading to a rank of 124 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Safari Zone (#JustOnePercent 23/100)

Developer: Tiger Collins
Release Date: April 9, 2021
MSRP: $4.99

Let’s talk about genre tags for a minute. I think that, once upon a time, they were fairly useful, but back then, there were also far far fewer of them to sort through. Now, more often than not, genre tags (whether added by the developer or by players through Steam’s tag system) are confusing & misleading. For genres I particularly like, I can usually pick out things in the game’s description or screenshots that I may or may not feel really fit the tag, but for genres I only dabble in, I’m sometimes surprised by what I actually end up with.

Safari Zone is described by the developer as a “creature-collection adventure with roguelike elements” and I suppose all of those terms are – strictly speaking – correct. However, I tend to associate the label of “creature-collection” with games like Pokémon, where creatures are captured through a battle mechanic. Not so here – you don’t so much collect creatures as catalog them, and there is no combat mechanic of any type. What there is instead is a somewhat irritating button mashing mini-game that, honestly, adds nothing to the experience.

As for the roguelike elements, well, in this case it means you have a limited amount of actions before you need to start over from scratch. It’s presented as being how far you can explore, but really, anything you do can deplete your meter. You need to find new creatures for your index in order to fund your expedition needs, but the game feels like it punishes you for, well, for moving. You can try to catch stuff, or you can explore – if you try to do both in the same safari, it feels like it takes forever to make any progress.

It’s kind of unfortunate, because while it feels like there’s an amusing game underneath all the mess, Safari Zone cannot seem to stay out of its own way. In trying to make a mashup of buzzword genres, it manages to avoid just about everything that makes those genres enjoyable. What you’re left with is an exploration game that discourages exploring, without a lot of story to motivate you to keep restarting. Add to that the apparent bug that even if you save the game before exiting, when you return your items (including the ones that allow you to start further into the game) are all gone, and you’re back to the tutorial, and I just don’t see myself returning to this one.

Safari Zone has garnered almost no attention on Steam, but was part of the recent Bundle for Ukraine on itch.io, which is how I discovered it. SteamDB estimates that Safari Zone has sold less than 100 copies on Steam. Both people who have reviewed it recommend it though – I guess they liked this one more than I did. It is ranked 6263 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – The Cryptologist Room (#JustOnePercent 22/100)

Developer: Yorick Postema
Release Date: April 9, 2021
MSRP: $0.99

I’ve been on an escape room style game kick for a bit, and although I don’t usually seek out hard games, I don’t mind an overly challenging puzzler now and again. I don’t even mind when a game requires you to know things (or be able to figure out how to look them up) outside of the information the game gives you.

What I was not expecting, however, was for that to extend to how to actually play the game.

Disclaimer: This is another title I played for far less than the hour benchmark I’ve set, but after taking a quick peek at a walkthrough, I knew there wasn’t anyway this game and I were going to ever be on the same page.

For a game that describes itself as having “no hand holding”, The Cryptologist Room fills an awful lot of the screen real estate with text. Initially, it seemed like the few tasks the game had set for you to escape the room would take far less than the 45 minute timer that was counting down. I spent the first several minutes pixel crawling across the dark bookshelves in the room, desperately looking for something I could interact with – other than, of course, the door which just kept telling me I did not yet have the key.

After my fourth or fifth trip around the room, I caved and went looking for a walkthrough. If, for some reason, you think you might want to play this one yourself, please stop reading here.

The books are not, in fact, on the bookshelves. This isn’t what put me off. I should have known that the books wouldn’t be on the bookshelves. But when a walkthrough is a brief as the one for this game is, it’s hard not to read ahead a little.

Clipped from this walkthrough (underlining is mine).

I’m sure I’ve said this in the past, but puzzle games either sink or swim on the strength of their puzzles. Puzzle games that require extreme leaps of logic aren’t satisfying, even if you do manage to (eventually) guess the next step. Sure, the instructions are to “crack the code” but actual code breaking normally requires that you have a key, and here, the expectation is that you’ll try all permutations of a specific type of cypher that’s not indicated by anything at all in the room.

For me, that’s not a fair puzzle, and maybe if the game was doing everything else right, I might have pushed through it. But discovering that there are only three “puzzles” to the entire game made me even more uninterested. It wasn’t going to get better than this, and I was already sick of the slow movement and the dark room and the very very few interactables, and … I really just didn’t want to be in The Cryptologist Room anymore.

Thankfully, the only key I actually needed to get out was the escape key on my keyboard.

Even with escape room puzzles starting to find a broader audience on PC, this game doesn’t seem to be finding any part of that success. SteamDB estimates that The Cryptologist Room has sold somewhere between 100 and 400 copies on Steam – even the bargain basement price point isn’t enough to draw folks in. It is ranked 9756 out of 10,967 games released in 2021, having found no success either in sales numbers or in garnering positive reviews.

Quick Look – Lost Words: Beyond the Page (#JustOnePercent 21/100)

Developer: Sketchbook Games
Release Date: April 6, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

Lost Words: Beyond the Page is yet another game I didn’t expect to get terribly invested in that I turned out to like quite a bit. I tried it out since it was available on GamePass, and since I tend to prefer puzzle platformers as they tend to be the most forgiving types of platforming games. I haven’t come close to completing the game yet; achievements indicate there are eight chapters, and I’ve only played through three of those.

The game alternates between main character Isabel’s journal, which is mostly exposition, with very light & simple puzzles and platforming, and the world of the story that Isabelle is writing. In the first journal section, you’re given some options to choose from to customize your character in the story sections, which are the meat of the game. My choices led to me playing as Robyn, who loves learning, but I’m not sure how much those choices effect the game as a whole – I’m guessing not that much.

Robyn works closely with Elder Ava, guardian of the fireflies, to protect their village. On her birthday, she comes into her power, the ability to use certain words in her journal to manipulate her environment. While there’s not a typical tutorial, the early chapters introduce new words (and concepts) gradually, and only at a couple of points did I really have to think about what the game was looking for me to do to proceed.

I am predisposed to prefer my games on the easy side anyway, and this is no exception. The world is beautiful, the sound design is excellent, and the story quickly ramps up the stakes for our heroine. Sure, it sometimes feels like a story written by a child, but that’s the point after all. The main game is the story of a child, a child who loves her grandmother very much and wants to make her proud, as Robyn wants to make Elder Ava proud.

So what it lacks in challenge, it makes up for in charm, and I found myself equally excited to find out what happens next, both for Robyn and for Isabelle. The pacing of both stories felt good, although there are (optional) collectibles in the fantasy world that may make the game feel a little bit slow if you’re trying for the achievement for gathering them all.

For a freshman effort from this developer, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is remarkably well put-together, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

SteamDB estimates that Lost Words: Beyond the Page has sold somewhere between 5,600 and 15,300 copies on Steam. Reviews have been very positive, with only a handful of people not recommending the game. It is ranked 309 out of 10,967 games released in 2021, putting it firmly in the top 5%.