To a lot of people, their journal is the most precious possession that they own. The thoughts within those pages are never to be disclosed and for those secrets to be read by another person would be the ultimate betrayal of trust. Despite this, we're going to commit that ultimate sin and invade the privacy of a young girl in Lost Words
. We first meet the girl on her birthday where her only major worry is that she doesn't seem to be growing up quickly enough. While there's nothing that she can do about that, she does intend to further her hopes of becoming a writer in the future, and this is where the journal comes in.
What follows is a tale that begins quite literally in the pages of the journal itself. The player needs to guide the young girl between the journal's pages by moving words and pictures around to solve puzzles and make choices. At first the girl's problems are minor, for example Pinky the cat has gotten stuck in a tree again and needs to be rescued by dad. Simple problems have simple solutions and players merely need to move the words to create platforms to reach the exit. However, soon the meaning of the words need to be taken into account too.
Dragging the word "open" from the middle of a sentence will do exactly that when placed upon a wrought iron gate that's blocking the page's exit. The gate opens up to allow players to enter the girl's fantasy world of Estoria, where the beautiful hand drawn graphics of the development team really bear fruit. A dragon has attacked the village and left it in ruins, extinguishing all the hope of the surviving villagers. Will Georgia/Grace/Robyn (the name of the protagonist is your choice) be able to restore that hope? Instead of being a block of text to read on a journal page, the words that make up to story now appear as players progress through the game and act out the story themselves. The new way of telling the story also brings in slightly different gameplay.
Up until now, words have just been a passing concern. They served their purpose in the moment but became part of the past as soon as the page was turned. Now they have far more significance. Words like "rise" and "build" certainly have their uses when they're first encountered, but they're also needed further into the game. To try and shoehorn those words into the story every time that they're required would turn the story into a joke. To avoid this problem, these words are permanently stored in the journal that players can access in the top left corner of the screen at any time, leaving room for a more natural way of telling the story.
To call this story merely the words of a young girl would be doing injustice to the game's writer, Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of fantasy master Terry Pratchett. You will likely have already played some of the games with which she's been involved, such as Rise of the Tomb Raider
and the Overlord Series
, both of which have garnered awards for videogame scripts and writing. In the brief demo we saw very little of the fantasy world that we'll be exploring upon the game's release, but her pedigree combined with the world painted by Sketchbook Games makes prying into a private journal quite a tantalising prospect. The game is due to be released next year.