I was not prepared for the deluge of emotions that would come along with playing Lost Words: Beyond the Page. It hit me right in the feels. Repeatedly.
Developed by Sketchbook Games and published by Modus, Lost Words: Beyond The Page is, primarily, the story of Izzy. She’s a young girl dealing with the sudden illness of her grandmother. A creative type, Izzy writes and doodles in her journal as a way to tell her story and to express herself. Her pages beautifully come to life as she writes; her sentences becoming platforms for the player to move across. Words and pictures can be moved around the page in order to progress.
Izzy is also a storyteller. Along with her own narrative, she’s in the midst of writing a fantasy adventure about a girl on a quest to find a dragon who has destroyed her home village. As such, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is split across two narratives. But with both coming from Izzy’s own mind, they overlap and interlink in numerous, heartbreaking ways.
“Lost Words deals with many emotions that anyone will be familiar with if they’ve lost someone close to them”
Izzy’s story plays out solely in the pages of her diary, but the fantasy tale feels more like a traditional platform game. The girl in the story (whose name you can choose; I went for Grace) has just been gifted with a magical power: she can gather words in a book, then use those words to change the environment around her. Come across a broken bridge? No problem; taking out the word “repair” and holding it over the bridge will rectify it in no time. You’ll only ever have a maximum of six words though, which means the actions you make throughout these fantasy segments can get a little repetitive.
For me, the highlight of the game is without a doubt Izzy’s own story. Her diary pages are a wonder to behold. The artwork is incredible, and the way her words are used to create a platforming level is very clever. But it’s the story itself that’s going to stick with me. Izzy is very close to her grandmother, and many of her diary entries speak of the fun times they’ve had together. So when she becomes sick, Lost Words: Beyond the Page becomes a journey through grief, depression, and coming to terms with the fact that some things will never be the same.
“With a storyteller so celebrated as Rhianna Pratchett on the writing credits for Lost Words: Beyond the Page, though, it’s no surprise its narrative feels so powerful”
Lost Words deals with many emotions that anyone will be familiar with if they’ve lost someone close to them. Izzy’s feelings come across so very real, so very raw – it’s this that made me so emotional, I think; taking me back to my own grandmother being ill. Izzy’s feelings of helplessness, of sadness and emptiness, all resonate very strongly. We never see Izzy, only through her own doodles in her journal, but through her words it’s easy to feel connected to her.
With a storyteller so celebrated as Rhianna Pratchett on the writing credits for Lost Words: Beyond the Page, though, it’s no surprise its narrative feels so powerful. Paired with the game’s excellent visuals, beautiful soundtrack and excellent, emotive voice acting throughout, it’s an emotional tour de force that will keep you hooked from start to to finish.
It’s not a long game; I completed Lost Words in around four hours. And while some aspects of the game feel a little tired – the fantasy tale in particular will have you repeating actions and retreading old ground more than once – it never feels like a chore to play. Although very simple in terms of gameplay, it’s the narrative that pushes the game forward, carrying with it an incredibly powerful message.
“It’s an emotional tour de force that will keep you hooked from start to to finish”
It’s a shame that right now, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is exclusive to Stadia; it won’t get the recognition it deserves until it’s released on other formats later. If you do have Stadia, I urge you to take a leap of faith on this beautiful little game. And if not, you’re in for a treat when it does land on PC and consoles later on.
Perhaps I was just extra-emotional while playing, but few games have had the impact on me that Lost Words: Beyond The Page has. It’s one that will stay with me for some time. Not only is it beautifully designed in terms of both audio and visuals, its very human story will touch your soul. And if you’re still lucky enough to have grandparents with you, it’ll remind you never to take them for granted again. Really, pick up the phone and tell your grandma what she means to you.