Hearkening back to the Anime classics of old, Forgotton Anne slides in out of nowhere, aiming to draw you in with Studio Ghibli-esque charm. Will it succeed? I guess we’re about to find out.
Forgotton Anne is the first release from Danish studio ThroughLine Games. They claim to be working on story driven games, which is very evident from their first release. Forgotton Anne could be described as a story based puzzler, with a slight sprinkle of platforming. I can’t help but draw comparisons to Heart Of Darkness, as the way Anne moves feels, from her running having weight, to her jump arch being static. Obviously Forgotton Anne isn’t anywhere near as brutal as a Heart Of Darkness or Another World, but it does tickle my nostalgia bone just a smidge.
So lets establish the key selling points of Forgotton Anne. As the studios main goal is to create story-driven games, we have to establish that as point one. Naturally the art style is point two, as it looks fairly different to almost anything on the market, barring the Ni No Kuni series which IS Studio Ghibli.
Cracking on with point one, let’s discuss the story of Forgotton Anne, shall we?
The world of Forgotton Anne is as such. Any objects that humans have forgotten about end up falling through a portal into another world. Socks, lamps, a single boot, all kinds of inanimate objects come to life once they enter this brand new world. The Forgottlings, as they’re referred to, are then tasked with various jobs which they strive to complete to the best of their ability so they can earn a trip on the Ether Bridge which has being created by Master Bonku, seemingly the only other human in the story, apart from the titular Anne. The Ether Bridge is said to be able allow the Forgottlings, or anyone else in this world, to travel back to their humans.
As with every story, nothing is quite as it seems as there’s a group of Rebels that are aiming to sabotage the creation of the Ether Bridge, for a purpose that may or may not be revealed to us later, as we see them attacking in the opening cutscene. Cut to our protagonist, Anne. Introduced as The Enforcer, your first task is to kick-start the power in your building.
As soon as you gain control of Anne, you immediately understand how weird if feels to control her. There’s so much weight to the movement and it’s instantly off-putting. It honestly feels like there’s a full second delay when inputting movement controls. The saddest part of this is the fact that the animation is, for the most part, quite nice and you at times it feels like you happen to be controlling a character that’s actually in a late 90’s Anime film, though Princess Monoke this certainly isn’t. The issue seems to stem from a weird comment I wrote down while playing. Could the game have too much animation? Arguably it’s almost a redundant statement, as there are places where the animations are certainly lacking, such as walking up and down stairs. if Anne stops on a foot that isn’t part of her stair idle animation, she’s gonna magically switch which foot is down. As it’s ThroughLine Games first release, you can chart it up to potentially being a little over ambitious, and all though the movement feels weird when you initially pick up the controller, it quickly slips into the back of your mind as you become accustomed to it.
Player choice is prevalent in Forgotton Anne, though never actually alluded to until you make your first choice. How will you interrogate a suspect? Which of these two characters could be a mole? How are you going to play YOUR version of Anne? It’s a nice touch, and almost feels like a nod to Telltales The Walking Dead series of games, but much like The Walking dead, do the choices actually make a difference? I guess this feature could be something that makes me come back to the game, as I’d be interested to see if the choices DO actually make a tangible difference to the story and not that it just changes some dialogue in a scene reminiscent of the Chrono Trigger court scene.
Though I ventured off from the original discussion of the story, it’s evident that ThroughLine Games are inspired by some classic Anime storylines and it shows with Forgotton Anne. If the game had released in the early 2000’s, then it might feel a little fresher than it does in 2018. There’s nothing offensive about the story at all, and in some places the writing is actually very interesting, notably the exchanges with Inspector Magnum, but it seems to take forever to have the main antagonist even be introduced. I won’t spoil anything for potential players, but characters motivations do seem to swing wildly from one ideology to another and I spent a fair while scratching my head, trying to work out how we’d gotten to certain conclusions.
A brief detour into the voice acting now. Obviously again, Forgotton Anne isn’t being made on a triple A budget and that is unfortunately most evident in the voice acting, with there being various audio oddities with different characters. Some of the writing comes across as a little stilted too, and it creates the feeling of actors just reading lines, rather than characters having a dialogue. Unfortunately I noticed it during the first exchange between Anne and Master Bonku, which happens to be the first real conversation in the game. Though I’ll give ThroughLine Games a little leeway here, as it doesn’t ruin the experience.
Art style, which I briefly touched upon earlier, is 100% Studio Ghibli inspired. I can’t imagine anyone looking at the game, even if they only had a cursory knowledge of the medium, and not going “Oh this looks like some anime”. I’m a fan of the direction they took and all though being a small studio has its limitations in terms of what you can really do graphically, they definitely made the most of it with Forgotton Anne. Movement looks fluid, even when it doesn’t feel it, environments look lived in and interactables are never lost to background noise. The only issue I really have is that there are times when Anne looks a little flat facially, usually during cut scenes.
While not an amazing first game by any means, ThroughLine Games have created something impressive. There are flaws, as to be expected with an Indie game, but with Forgotton Anne, the studio shows some real promise. If they can tighten up their story beats, smooth out some animations and improve on their scripts, we could have a neat little studio in a few years. I’m excited to see what comes next.