Rhianna Pratchett is no stranger to creating engaging video game narratives. Some of you may have enjoyed her work without even knowing it. She co-wrote Heavenly Sword, worked on Mirror’s Edge, and was lead writer on Crystal Dynamic’s new Tomb Raider titles. After years of working on games targeted toward an older audience, Lost Words: Beyond the Page is aimed at putting the power of words into the hands of younger players, but everyone is welcome in this world.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page Review – She’s Got the (Word) Power
Lost Words: Beyond the Page tells the story of a girl named Izzy who uses her journal and storytelling to cope with a traumatic time in her young life. She’s the creative type and loves spending time with her Gran. One day, Izzy decides she wants to write a story to share with her loved ones and begins crafting her tale in-between her journal entries. Izzy’s fantasy story is fairly straightforward. Her enchanting tale follows a familiar format—young girl with a newly acquired magical item must set out in search of her village’s guardian fireflies to restore her home. However, there are times when she needs a little help from the player, such as naming the young heroine. It’s not quite Choose Your Own Adventure level but it was nice to make small choices such as selecting a character’s motivation.
Players experience Izzy’s story as a platformer with a unique puzzle mechanic. When the Heroine (I chose to name her Georgia) comes across an obstacle, she can pull out her book of magical words to aid her. Rise is the first word added to her arsenal. Over time, Georgia acquires more entries in her book. She breaks boulders and repairs bridges. A few words only stay with the Heroine for the duration of the chapter. It was sad to see a word fade from my book, but excitement to see what would come next instantly took over.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page Review – Wordsmithing and Footnotes
Izzy’s journal is her safe space. In it she shares happy memories of her family and Gran. It’s also where she goes to express her feelings when Gran takes a turn for the worse. Her pages also offer a bit of platforming and puzzle solving. You can move word scraps to fill in blanks, reveal doodles, or just to jump to a higher spot on the page. Players turn the page by moving Izzy’s avatar to the small tears in her journal. Sometimes there are other interactive aspects to her journal. Like walking over colored words on the page or touching new elements like the fireflies on the image I share below. Whether those pages are bright and cheery or filled with grief, watching Izzy use her story as a way to cope with events foreign and scary is a moving experience.
My favorite little detail in Izzy’s journals are the asterisks. To some, these are just lovely anecdotes. But from the first moment I saw them, deep in my heart I believe these are Rhianna’s nod to her late father, Sir Terry Pratchett. Why, you ask? Because when Izzy touches them footnotes appear. And fans of Terry Pratchett’s work know full well his love of footnotes. I truly hope that young players thinking about a future in writing are inspired by all of the little details tucked away inside this family friendly game.
It may be Rhianna’s name that sells you on Lost Words but it takes a talented team to bring a writer’s work to life. And Sketchbook Games did such a brilliant job of it. The art is inviting, the controls are simple and intuitive. No level felt like a chore, nor did I encounter any strange bugs. I found it almost impossible to get stuck at any point. It’s not so long that it will be pushed aside quickly, either; it took me a Saturday afternoon to get through the majority of it. If you have a youngster interested in writing and video games, I highly recommend nudging them towards Lost Words to encourage their creative spark.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on PlayStation 5. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.