Played on PC
You can create games in a variety of ways, and each method is good in its own way, although arguments about which is the only correct one will never subside. The most important thing for someone is to tell a story in some way. Someone dances out of the genre by either fully conforming to (or restoring) the canons, or, conversely, breaking the canons. Someone is looking for a sense of flow, focusing not on the mind but on the feelings. There are really many options and most are mixed. But Viewfinder is just one example of a clean approach. Its authors invented a ruse of adding reality using photos – and built an entire puzzle around it.
In fact, it’s quite difficult to put the viewfinder trick into words. But after just a few seconds of the twenty-first teaser, the viewer’s jaw drops. Here’s the floor, here’s the ceiling, here’s the stairs, here’s the table, here’s a photo on it. We take a picture… and Glue into the space in front of us, get a new reality – a new staircase, a new floor, a new ceiling – and now we can climb to an unreachable height, for example to where the object that we need lies. Yes, the photo inside is extensive. In general, I say the same thing, there is no point in explaining it, scroll down and watch the trailer. And come back – after all, Sad Owl Studios used this trick to create a game for four or five hours.
The first impression combined both admiration for an unusual view of reality (albeit virtual) and suspicion. How many similar projects have we seen – blockbuster trailers that turned out to be, at best, a godsend for streamers, but didn’t really turn into full-fledged gaming works. But there are not so few exceptions: Portal, The Witness, Gorogoa, Baba Is You and Superliminal (probably the closest example in terms of gameplay and ideas) can be immediately recalled.
And Viewfinder managed to join the exclusion list. However, with some caveats.
Viewfinder is based on the classic principle of puzzle games where only the details change. Somewhere we move sequentially through a series of level tasks, but here we are at the base, more precisely five bases in a row from which we go to the corresponding levels. The creators haven’t seriously thought about the context of what’s happening – we’re just in a virtual world simulation. And if there is no reality, then everything is allowed: we fly to the levels through teleporters, all spatial artifacts are explainable; There are artifacts and temporarySe – Within the levels you can turn back time and correct mistakes.
The game as a whole is quite unobtrusive and comfortable – it is forgiving of mistakes and does not set insurmountable tasks; You don’t have to spend an hour racking your brain over each and every riddle and googling for solutions with an aching heart. Well, most likely you don’t have to do this – as a rule, the conditions of the problem are more or less clear, you don’t need to create complex combinations of numerous tools. But sometimes amazing logic (actually lack of it – often you just have to think against what it dictates) doesn’t fit in your head – and you have to think about it. As in almost every game, there are own collections, internal jokes and other material for achievements. And there are also optional tasks: there are only a few of them and they are a bit more difficult than the compulsory ones. In fact, it’s not entirely clear why they’re here, as the complexity of the main ones also varies. I can’t say that the optional levels are many times harder than the “story” levels.
Not more difficult, but a little more complex, which requires the use of the entire arsenal of knowledge and tools. And it’s slightly different in each of the five zones – Viewfinder avoids the trap of repeating a well-thought-out technique for the entire five hours. First we simply use the photos sorted by layers, then we start taking them ourselves with the help of a camera, first placed statically on a tripod, then portable, which later we almost always carry with us. Copiers appear on the levels, new conditions are added – from level pieces that cannot be photographed to (finally) portals that change the color of the environment. The general puzzle style, which requires a non-trivial approach to understanding the surrounding space, does not change;
Unfortunately, while developing good mechanics and even scaling it into a full-fledged game, the creators of Viewfinder forgot about the additional motivation of the player – the storyline. Well, either they didn’t forget, but decided to screw it up “for show.” Our unnamed character finds himself in a simulation in search of some sort of air conditioning device – in the real world (which we’ll find ourselves in a few more times) that’s all bad. A group of scientists and an artist have been working on its creation and we will have to walk through their worlds – rooms, reading notes, listening to recorded conversations and occasionally speaking (actually listening) to our outside contact. world (of course, that’s kind of a post-Firewatch woman). In the levels themselves, there is artificial intelligence in the Cheshire Cat’s avatar.
It seems that there is some content, but it is so optional, not catchy and presented so sluggishly that it cannot serve as motivation. And for me, who values stories and emotions above all else in games, that could just destroy the viewfinder. Nevertheless, she manages to arouse emotions with her puzzles, coupled with a cozy atmosphere. Each microcosm is charming and pleasant in its own way, and even closer to the end, when the simulation begins to fall apart, it’s quite pleasant to be in.
Many story-based games are accused of being better suited to storytelling in other art forms: movies, books, TV shows. Well, Viewfinder can only exist in interactive form – well, in a streaming format of course, like any game that’s mainly based on the sense of surprise. Yes, it exaggerates the plot, some other additional motivations and emotions, but it does the most important thing – it keeps surprising throughout its length. Somewhere it still lacks variety, somewhere its debutants are a little off balance (some tricks are used very often, others literally once), but Viewfinder is a unique, rare ingenuity puzzle that I don’t want to get too picky about.
- dazzling space games;
- cozy atmosphere and respect for the player;
- a riddle that astonishes all along the line.
- In fact, everything boils down to the lingering sense of surprise;
- Very constructed and uninteresting plot.
A neat and colorful world is not richly designed, but all the special effects associated with the photos “inserted” into the world are intelligently implemented.
The fact that the game has music didn’t occur to me until I was filling in that section in the tablet – Ambient Very unobtrusive. Audio recordings and conversations with the “invisible partner” are well voiced, but this does not convey a feeling of connection with the characters.
single player game
A unique puzzle based on the spatial paradoxes created by “insertion” into the world of photographs. Sounds weird, plays great.
Estimated travel time
We definitely recommend it to all lovers of imaginative puzzles that do not require extreme complexity and a strong brain challenge. Also connoisseur of elegant level design. One of the most talked about indie games of summer 2023 lives up to expectations, if not quite.
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