Forgotton Anne Review

By Mark Delaney, 1 year ago
It was only a few weeks ago we discussed the best adventure games available on Xbox in 2018, and now that list already needs amending. Forgotton Anne — yes, it's really spelt that way — is a stunningly stylized anime video game. Faithfully crafting every animation to look like something reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli film, ThroughLine Games' 2D puzzling adventure is surprisingly worth a look whether or not you're a fan of anime.

25/04/2018 - Carousel

Forgotton Anne tells the story of Anne, the enforcer of the Forgotten Lands, a realm where all things that are forgotten arrive. That matching sock you couldn't find, a bowling ball left in your closet for years, even large appliances like refrigerators, they all end up in the Forgotten Lands where they are imbued with life (or "anima"), given jobs to perform, and contribute to their new society. Anne is the surrogate daughter of the only other human in the land, Master Bonku. She acts as a sort of law enforcement agent, protecting the denizens of the land from would-be troublemakers. To do this she can distill them, which essentially means to suck the soul right out of them, which can turn a walking, talking sweater into nothing but a piece of discarded laundry.

Throughout the 6-8 hour game, Anne will have choices to make, puzzles to solve, and platforms to jump. The puzzling is the game's strongest suit because the studio does an admirable job of changing them up quite a bit. The central mechanic consists of manipulating the flow of anima throughout the facilities in which you all live and work. These aren't too difficult at first but layers get added to them later on in ways that are satisfyingly intuitive and challenging at once. The world design also lends itself to an enjoyable experience. Sometimes adventure games can get so obtuse when signaling where the player should be and which items they should be using that it ends up hurting the pacing of the game. That's not the case for Forgotton Anne. The game has a way of partitioning itself off to the player to help instruct where attention should be focused. This keeps things moving well, which allows for the story-heavy game to really succeed.

Simplistic dialogue trees are also used frequently, with never more than two choices populating your list of replies. Often these are a bit too simple, with one response being quite rude or impatient and the other being the more forgiving or polite option. When this isn't the case, the game does a good job of subtly tallying your decisions, which alter the story in some ways big and small later on. It's done so subtly, in fact, that you may not recognize when the game is doing it until you play it again, or spot callbacks in conversation hours later. There's not a lot of role-playing to be done with Anne, but there's enough room to make her choices reflect the type of person you want her to be, even if the choices are always binary.

Forgotton Anne is faithful to its anime inspirations.Forgotton Anne is faithful to its anime inspirations.

The game's weakest aspect of its three core mechanics is the platforming. It never feels as fluid as a game with this much platforming should. In part, this feels due to the Miyazaki-like art that seems to require some slower and somewhat stiff animations. Climbing, jumping, and wing-jumping all feel a bit clunky throughout, and even walking up and down stairs can feel too slow and unwieldy. It's an unfortunate price to pay, but if it's what one must trade for the sake of the art, it's ultimately forgivable because the game is gorgeous.

A lot has been made of games trying to capture particular aesthetics lately, as new gaming technology has allowed for new avenues to be explored. Most famously, Cuphead achieved this with their true-to-form 1920s cartoon audiovisual performance. The visuals in Forgotton Anne deserve high praise as well. It takes the soft colors and character and setting design of a Studio Ghibli production and manages to make a beautiful game out of them in such a way that every moment has the potential to be a stunning screenshot. It's really remarkable and potentially eye-opening. Forgotton Anne may be the thing that changes your mind about anime — it is for me.

The voice acting is a bit all over the place. Main characters like Anne and Master Bonku are performed well, while some of the Forgotlings sound a bit silly at times, like Inspector Magnum, an anthropomorphized handgun that sounds a bit like a Trey Parker impression of a police officer. The game is not without its humor, though, so these moments of goofy voicework seem purposeful and thus quite charming in the end.

Don't like anime? This game may change your mind.Don't like anime? This game may change your mind.

The achievement list may frustrate players. It's rather generous, but it's also made entirely secret. Although we obviously have a quick fix for such a problem on TA, the list is also quite missable. It's unknown at this time if they can all be obtained in one playthrough, but it would seem unlikely given how some achievements come attached to specific decisions. It's also worth noting that the quantities of most achievements are not offered in multiples of five as usual. If that's the kind of thing to irritate you, make sure to have a game plan for how to land on a 5 or 0 if you're not going to complete it.

Check out our Best Xbox One Platformer Games Available in 2019 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Forgotton Anne has the potential to be an eye-opening experience for some players. Those who already enjoy anime in both its art and its typical sensibilities will likely adore the game. Others who may have avoided anime to date but enjoy a story-driven adventure game should not overlook it either. Its premise is strange, but always charming and engrossing too. Issues with controls and platforming hinder the experience, but not enough to sour all the good that is present, like subtly branching storylines and a host of memorable characters. Anime fan or not, you won't easily forget it.
4 / 5
Forgotton Anne
Positives
  • Charming story with memorable characters
  • Subtly branching storyline
  • A good mix of core and one-off puzzle mechanics
Negatives
  • Controls and platforming feel unwieldy throughout
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent seven hours in the Forgotten Lands, meeting a lot of friendly surprisingly animate objects like shoes and toasters. He collected 17 of 33 achievements for 531 Gamerscore. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.