Just wow. You know, it’s not often that we writing folk get lost for words. I’m doing a few things as I sit here at the moment. Firstly I’m trying to string sentences together so I can tell you lot, all about the brilliant game I’ve just played. I’m still trying to process the experience though, and I’m bemoaning the fact that I’m not still playing it. I mean, I will be, but I’d probably better do this first. The game is Viewfinder and I’ve been indulging in the Steam version. To put things simply the best way to describe this title is; different.
Viewfinder is a puzzle game that uses some really interesting mechanics. The primary one of these is very much in the game’s title. This game is all about perception and you’ll need to get used to looking at things through a slightly different lens pretty quickly if you’re going to get anywhere.
All you need to do is get to that teleporter. The fact that it’s an image on a photograph means nothing in Viewfinder.
From the beginning of the story, we aren’t certain exactly where we are in Viewfinder. We’re stepping from a lab into a simulation where a group of scientists appears to have been trying to create a sort of utopia. You’ll encounter each of their stories as you play through their own individual zones. These are represented as stops on a train line, with each scientist having their own hub world. From here you’ll explore different levels, solving puzzles and unlocking the story in pieces as you go. As with many puzzles, the objective is relatively simple. All you need to do is get to a teleporter or turn one on by finding its batteries. As is also the case with puzzle games, this is very much easier said than done.
The first hub world. You might want to get all your ducks in a row before leaving.
As you explore the levels you’ll find photographs. When you place one of these down in front of you it seamlessly becomes part of the level and you can walk around it. You can also rotate the photos before you place them; enabling you to create bridges, set staircases, etc. This is very much the basics. As you travel further into the living experiment you’ll find other tools that you’ll need to manipulate if you’re going to continue. I won’t leave spoilers but they’re all playing on the idea of perception and this is a really fun way to experience the game. You aren’t so much finding the solution to the puzzle as making it and this is a great way to play.
The simulation is a world of floating islands.
I’m not sure what more I want to say about Viewfinder. This is a very story-driven game and you know I’m not going to ruin it for you here. The same applies to the physics being used. This is an exploration-based puzzler and a large part of the fun is finding things as you go. This being said, there isn’t really much more I want to tell you for fear of giving too much away. All I’m going to say is that it’s a world that I absolutely recommend you experience. It’s not just a case of getting from point A to B either, you’ll find collectibles in the levels and other items that relate to the story but don’t necessarily help in solving the puzzle you’re being presented with. The same applies to the story. You’ll have to look for story entries in the form of records and diary notes if you’re going to work out what happened. You’ll also have guidance from a friend of yours on the outside of the simulation. I get the impression that your own world is a dystopian one, though this is left a bit more to your imagination.
Your own world isn’t as beautiful as the one inside the computer.
The graphics in Viewfinder are absolutely gorgeous and the music is calm and relaxing, This is an idyllic setting and the idea is that you solve the puzzles at your own pace. There isn’t a rush to do anything and this very much comes across as you play. In addition to this, you can’t die. This makes solving the puzzles a joy because there isn’t any stress being placed on you. You are given a really useful rewind function too, so if you know you’ve gone wrong you don’t have to play your mistake out to its conclusion. You can just drop yourself back to before you fouled up, and try again. This makes this game very much about experimentation and this is always welcome.
You’ll want to examine everything you find in each level. The story won’t just tell itself.
Controls couldn’t be any simpler. Everything is controlled by the keyboard and mouse and you’ll get tooltips as you go so you won’t ever forget what you’re doing. You’d be surprised how useful this is. It might feel like superfluous information while you’re playing, but have you even put a game down for a few months and then gone back to it to realize you suddenly can’t control your character? Annoying isn’t it? It won’t be a problem here.
Now, how are we going to get over there?
I actually have nothing negative to say about Viewfinder. In fact, this has to be one of my favorite games of 2023, just based on innovation alone. Out of the puzzle games I’ve played this year, this is definitely my favorite so far. It’s not often anymore that I feel a bit sad having to come away from a game, or that I genuinely look forward to getting back to one. Part of this comes with age and partly because I play so many now that it’s easy to become a little bit jaded. In this case, I’m very much looking forward to diving back in and seeing what Viewfinder has in store for me next.
The cat can talk. Sadly the melon can’t.
All in all, this is a game that I strongly recommend puzzle fans amongst you experience for yourselves. I actively try not to give games a 10 because I don’t believe anything is perfect. This being said, it also gets to a point where you’re picking holes to justify not giving a 10 and this isn’t right either. I think it’s important to take everything on it’s own merit and in this case, there isn’t a lot I can say other than wow. Viewfinder is a bloody impressive outing on all fronts and something totally different from what we’re used to seeing from the puzzle genre. Pretty incredible all around.
Look and feel - 10/10
Story - 10/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Innovation - 10/10
Viewfinder is an absolutely brilliant addition to any puzzle library. If you’re looking for a novel, new, way to test the old gray matter you won’t go far wrong here. I genuinely don’t have anything negative to say and this is absolutely one of my favorite titles of 2023. Really well done!
Hailing from Southport England, Alex started his gaming career in the late 80s on a Commodore 64. Since that time he's either owned or played on virtually every console released. Alex happens to... Read more...