Forgotton Anne is the latest release under the Square Enix Collective umbrella and looks to continue the streak of well-received games that have been released over the past couple of years. The adventure genre has seen something of a resurgence over the past few years so Forgotton Anne needed something special to make it stand out from the crowd, fortunately, it manages to achieve this with a beautifully unique aesthetic and a compelling story that keeps you guessing until the very end.
You play as Anne as you adventure through The Forgotten Lands with your mentor, Master Bonku. After a very brief introduction, you meet your very first Forgotling. These are creatures that are formed from various household objects that have been discarded and left behind. Anne is an enforcer who has to verify these Forgotlings by checking to make sure they have a sticker labelling them as such, as well as dealing with any that step out of line by distilling them using the Arca device she has attached to her arm. or you can choose to send them to The Plant where they will work and become rehabilitated members of The Forgotten Lands. Your Arca device is used to manipulate Anima (the energy source of The Forgotten Lands) as well as enabling you to control the flow of Anima in various areas to divert power to where it is needed.
If that above paragraph sounds confusing then I can completely understand, as the first hour or so in Forgotton Anne left me initially rather confused by what was going on. Within the first few moments of the game, you have to make a choice that may or may not have massive repercussions at the very end of your adventure and there is no hand holding here when it comes to making these decisions. You are simply presented with two options to choose from and once it is done that is it. The Arca you carry on your arm is mainly used to solve the many puzzles you’ll encounter on your playthrough. Initially, they are very simple but as you progress the puzzles soon ramp up in difficulty and involve you interacting with multiple objects in a short space of time. There’s nothing here that you can’t figure out by experimenting with the environment around you but sometimes it does feel dangerously close to you having to reply on trial & error more than logic.
Visually Forgotton Anne is absolutely beautiful. A lot of the talk in various gameplay previews mentioned the Studio Ghibli inspired visuals and they do not disappoint. Every area has a very unique feel to it and the use of vibrant colour means you’ll never get bored of exploring. One thing I did find slightly disappointing was the animation of Anne and the characters you encounter. Whenever you move something feels slightly ‘off’, like there is a little delay before you actually carry out the input. This isn’t so bad when you are simply walking or running but when it comes to the platforming it feels rather cumbersome.
There is a lot of platforming in Forgotten Anne and these are easily the weakest parts of the game. Even when you acquire a set of wings later on which enable you to jump farther and higher it never quite feels like you have full control of Anne. Some of the sections in the latter parts of the game can feel pretty fiddly and I did find myself getting frustrated when I’d reach the top of an area only to mess up a jump due to the clunky controls and fall the way to the bottom, although this only happened to me a couple of times. Some of the environments were a little tricky to navigate at times as well, and I would get stuck for a little while trying to walk into the foreground or background until eventually, I was able to get to another area. A map of each section you are in would make things a lot easier.
Voice acting for Forgotton Anne is carried out well, Anne herself is a likeable character for the most part even when she is distilling the Forgotlings around her, however some of the choices you make have different interactions then what show on the screen which is annoying especially when there is no way to manually save prior to these so the only way to see these would be on another playthrough. The use of the Danish Philharmonic Orchestra for the soundtrack was an inspired choice, my only complaint about it is that for me the dialogue was sometimes hard to hear over the music behind it and there is no option to adjust this anywhere.