Release date: Episode 1 - 10/1/2012, Episode 2 - 6/20/2013, Episode 3 - 7/9/2015
Interview: JA Interview with Glitch Games' Simon Pearce and Graham Ransom
The face of adventure gaming has continued to evolve from humble text beginnings to amazing 3D environments. But, at the end of the day, those of us who love the genre know that it is the quest that keeps us coming back. We crave the sense of discovery that accompanies the journey, always secure in the belief that good will triumph over evil and that the truth will set us free.
At times however, keeping up with hardware requirements in the PC world requires a committed savings plan. A few years ago, I found that I could no longer see the value in investing in the best graphics and sound cards, the most memory, and the fastest processor. So, I bought a tablet and relegated my PC to the tasks of basic web-browsing and email. Initially, I was surprised to find so many gaming choices for someone with a tablet and a (very) old PC. Between Big Fish, Good Old Games, the App Store, and Google play, there are more titles than one can count. Sadly, after countless hidden object searches and games with 1000+ doors, it became painfully obvious that quality experiences for an adventurer were few and far between.
Quite by accident, I found Forever Lost Episode 1. On startup, it seemed like a pretty typical 2D point-and-click escape game. You begin in a locked room with no memory of who you are or how you got there. As I began to puzzle my way out, I realized that I had stumbled upon something quite extraordinary.
Forever Lost is the brainchild of two remarkable guys in the United Kingdom. Simon Pearce and Graham Ranson teamed up to form Glitch Games and, as they say, the rest is history. With a few successful releases under their belts, they have earned the right to be taken seriously.
Forever Lost begins in the abandoned Hawthorn asylum. You explore this empty landscape and find bits of information about former residents who include Jason, Alice, and Hugo. As you move through the game, you traverse additional sections of the Hawthorn facility and begin to sense that the lives of these characters are deeply intertwined, and that you're a part of their story. Ultimately, your identity and place in the story are disclosed, but my lips are sealed as to the final outcome. The story is bleak, with tragedy and darkness. It's about ambition gone awry and love lost. These themes are further reinforced by the artwork and the soundtrack.
The story moves seamlessly through three episodes, with each beginning in the scene where the previous episode left off, and culminating in an ending that explains all. While Episodes 1 and 2 are not prerequisites to Episode 3, you will totally miss out if you don't play all three in order. The full story unfolds across episodes and part of my enjoyment was seeing the references back to earlier scenes and clues.
What immediately delighted me about the game were the puzzles. I'm not a fan of obtuse ‘find and use’ solutions that make no sense. I'm also not a huge fan of mechanical puzzles that require an Excel spreadsheet to solve. In Forever Lost, almost all puzzles are solved through clues found in patterns and words. The answers are generally hidden in plain sight, once you know what to look for. You learn to take clues quite literally and to expand your thinking to match the creativity of the developers. As I played through I continued to smile at the many puns, wordplays and overall cleverness of the game. The darkness of the Forever Lost story is in stark contrast to the subtle humor you'll find if you're paying close attention. I should add that there are a few purely mechanical puzzles thrown in for good measure, but they are solvable with minimum frustration.
Another feature that's worth mentioning is that each Episode has at least one "retro mini-game" which proves to be a source of additional entertainment and adds levity to the dark storyline. These include a space invader arcade game, a journey into an Etch-a-Sketch and a peek at another Glitch adventure, Ferris Mueller’s Day Off. Each of these diversions provides items or clues that are brought back to the "real" game world and become part of the main experience .
One of my favorite features in Forever Lost is the "Glitch Camera." The game provides a camera that allows you to capture screens as you're playing. Since so many puzzles are solved by observations of the game world, this feature allows you to put away your pencil and paper and keep a visual record of items of interest as you go. What makes this so useful is that you have the ability to minimize a specific image and "float" it on top of the current scene. Thus you can refer to your photographic clues quickly and easily while in the process of actually solving a puzzle.
For those adventurers with little patience or an inclination to cheat, Forever Lost includes a full in-game hint system. In Episodes 1 and 2, the hints are task-based. This means that the sequenced tasks required for game completion are hidden but marked with a checkmark or an "X" to indicate whether or not you have accomplished the task. If you get stuck, you can scan the list and reveal a single task that you've missed along the way.
In Episode 3, the hint system is redesigned to be puzzle-based. Thus if you get stuck on a specific puzzle, you can select it to reveal a series of hints that range from a brief nudge to an outright shove in the right direction. The new hint system is more elegant and is designed to function better on mobile devices with smaller screens.
My answer is "absolutely nothing!" At the end of the day, Forever Lost represents all that is good about classic adventure gaming. Those seeking a high-tech 3-D experience with action may want to look elsewhere. But traditional adventurers who love exploration, discovery, puzzles and a thoughtful story should not miss Forever Lost. Glitch has just recently released all three episodes for the Mac and PC desktops, so not wanting to adventure on your phone or tablet is no longer an excuse!
I truly enjoyed the Forever Lost trilogy and am eager to see what the "Glitch Guys" come up with next!
+ Clever puzzles with (very) subtle humor
+ Camera feature streamlines clue collection
+ In-game hint system is a great alternative to spoiling the game by viewing a You Tube walkthrough
- Requires careful attention and creative thinking – skills not celebrated by all gamers
- 2D Point-and-Click Adventure may not appeal to those wanting a more dramatic experience