Lost Words: Beyond the Page review
Lost Words: Beyond the Page is about storytelling, emotional turmoil, and the magic of the written word―from the perspective of Izzy, a young and thoughtful girl. You follow her thoughts and emotions as she writes her diary. Interactivity comes from you running across the words, leaping to other ones, sometimes slotting them into their correct places, and unveiling bonus annotations if you make the extra effort.
In some ways, Beyond the Page feels almost like the beginning of what could be a story writing simulator. At a few points you will find yourself in Izzy’s imaginary world, summoned by the story she is writing, where you move around through different environments and solve puzzles to proceed. Izzy’s fictional world, Estoria, is completely intertwined with her musings in the real world, in that her state of mind manifests in how dark or cheerful the world becomes. However, you can also contribute to this in some ways by making choices at some points in her story. These aren’t major choices, but I enjoyed feeling as if I were helping her along, and it’s also akin to the excitement of writing fiction, replicating a similar sense of potential and fun.
A particularly distinctive feature is the use of magical words in Estoria. You can open a small notebook and select the right words for the obstacle in order to proceed: ‘break’ to shatter a stone in your way, ‘repair’ to fix a damaged bridge, or ‘rise’ to levitate a column you’re standing on.
Both the journal sections and the Estoria segments are written in a convincing, dramatic way, thanks to Rhianna Pratchett, an author known for penning works like the 2013 ‘Tomb Raider’. She really captures the persona of a young girl who’s confused and hurting, in a manner that feels potent and real: funny at times, especially when talking about her brother, but also endearing, earnest, and creative. Personally, I often prefer games without voice acting, but I was impressed at the strong performance for Izzy’s voice actor—it felt natural and genuine, which complemented Pratchett’s writing.
Even how the game is laid out continually enriches Izzy’s characterisation in creative ways. In one sequence, Izzy’s words become jumbled as she writes about her sense of desperation when dealing with her loss. At another point we see Izzy constantly trying to write but failing, crossing her words out, and then simply not continuing anymore. Her inner turmoil has hindered her writing, consuming her so much that the typical articulate Izzy soon became worn down with sadness and anger―an extremely relatable plight to be in. While lovely writing can also be a horribly slow process, attempting to describe your thoughts while suffering is a struggle. Loss may be the emphasis here, but this is also intertwined with the writer’s perspective of frustration when nothing seems right, versus the power of words to construct light and grim stories, and the fun of creative exploration.
It’s saddening, perhaps even triggering if you’re suffering from loss, but there are a few bursts of brightness, like Izzy’s exhilaration as she slides down long hills in her fictional world, or her adorable companion named Lump, that travels with her for a while. It’s a sincere portrayal of the human experience, focused through the lens of a young girl.
A moving tale about loss
At the same time, Izzy’s art in her diary depicts very pleasant colours through her illustrations; one of my favourites is a lovely depiction of a night sky. There is a simple prettiness to the areas she travels through in her fantasy world too—I particularly liked an atmospheric water level.
Yet Beyond The Page sometimes feels a bit too on the nose in terms of the symbolism (for example, anger manifesting as a giant fiery creature) and straightforward with its lessons on life, but this makes sense when considering that the in-game author of the diary and the story world is a child. This is bolstered by Pratchett’s flair for writing, while the game’s creative and interactive elements also strengthen this.
Are words magical? In a way, certainly. They can capture moments in time, or give birth to entire fantastical worlds. Lost Words: Beyond the Page is able to capture this sensation through skillful writing, lovely artwork, and a powerful sense of creativity. It is an affecting exploration of a child trying to create while in the midst of trauma.