The debut title from developer ThroughLine Games, Forgotton Anne, has been lighting up industry conventions and expos around the world for the past couple of years now, as it attempts to create an experience that goes way beyond the simplicities of a standard 2D platformer. Equipped with an animated art style that has the potential for beauty and a plot that promises intrigue and suspense, does Forgotton Anne remember to squeeze in a compelling gameplay loop to help create a captivating adventure for all? The answer is a resounding yes.
The Forgotten Lands, out of sight to the general populace, is a realm inhabited by those that are lost, referred to as Forgotlings. Misplaced by their owners, anything from a shoe to a revolver can end up in the domain, and it’s the job of Anne as enforcer to keep things in check. As she and her leader, Master Bonku, work to create an Ether Bridge that will transport them and every Forgotling back to the real world, the city is attacked by a group of rebels. As Anne, it’s up to you to get the power back online and work out what’s really going on in The Forgotten Lands, as a conspiracy begins to unfold that affects even those you hold dearest.
And it’s this collusion that spearheads Forgotton Anne’s narrative to stardom. The beautifully told story plays host to moral choices, witty writing that’s sure to charm, and memorable characters that will live long in the mind. There’s much more to this tale than what meets the eye, and as Anne, it’s a joy to uncover what has been kept behind the curtains. Plot twists and turns will keep you on your toes, the magical world and its lore will have you coming back for more, and your decisions will come back to haunt you in the cleverest of ways.
While it’s clear that the story is one of the game’s biggest focuses, Forgotton Anne's gameplay still very much matches its quality. As a platformer, you’ll traverse the wreckage of the city, scaling walls, jumping across chasms, and navigating the complex maze of backstreets throughout the districts. As a puzzler, in-depth brain teasers test your use of Anima, the energy that powers The Forgotten Lands.
The aforementioned platforming mechanics may have gotten a little tiresome had they stuck to the basics, but as Anne gains access to her own set of mechanical wings, things start to open up a whole lot more. With the height of your jump more than tripled, crossing gorges is no longer a problem, while rooftops of the neighbourhood become a much more viable way of getting about. And even if you were to mistime a jump, you’ll gracefully flutter back to the ground without a scratch.
With no death penalty, the title’s main challenges can be found in its puzzles. Thanks to a device on Anne’s wrist, she can carry one full dosage of Anima at any given time, and this is used to power machinery, bring life back to a Forgotling, or make a piece of equipment do your bidding. Things start off fairly simple as you place your Anima in the correct object or twist pipes in order to direct the power to the right appliance, but new mechanics are quickly introduced to keep things fresh.
When everything works in tandem, Forgotton Anne both tests and delights. Working your way around a factory, vaulting to-and-fro between a sequence of switches as you activate them in the correct order, is elating. Solving a complex Anima conundrum in the underground sewers in order to unlock the exit, is rewarding and uplifting. It doesn’t attempt to reinvent the genre, but what it does instead is serve up mechanics and puzzles that belong at the top of this medium. Rest assured that while the story successfully entertains and shocks, the gameplay is more than up to snuff to bridge the gap between those precious moments.
With that said, we haven’t even gotten to the title’s crowning achievement yet. This is perhaps the most stunning art style we’ve seen for a long, long time, with an animated design that looks astonishing in motion. Hand-drawn Forgotlings navigate the setting with grace, colour, and beauty, while the title’s 2.5D nature brings a sense of wonderment to its environments with changes at a turn’s notice as you make your way through different neighbourhoods and locales. Anne is also animated beautifully, with idle animations that bring her character to life even when you set the controller down, and one more that has the protagonist brushing herself off of the dust collected from a great jump. It’s the little things that make the world feel alive, and it's wrapped up in a colour palette that has left us in awe. With the adventure clocking in at a meaty seven hours, you’ve got plenty of time to appreciate it, too.
Forgotton Anne has thrilled us in every possible way. Its story is packed to the rafters with charm, amazement, tension, and doubt. The gameplay satisfies in every key area with challenging puzzles and skilful platforming, and it’s these mechanics that get to accommodate a gorgeous art style which will live on long in our hearts. You need to experience Forgotton Anne for yourself, because the package as a whole is really quite special.