I’m usually pretty ambivalent about “steampunk” in general. More often than not, I feel like the genre is more about playing up a certain aesthetic than ideas. I don’t consider myself an expert on it’s elements, but I’ve played a number of games that qualify as steampunk, and I typically find myself getting burnt out very easily.
This could just be my experience, but I have a hunch that “steampunk” doesn’t have very many hard and fast rules. It’s pretty easy to slap some gears and clockwork onto something and find the right buyer. A lot of the time, it’s kind of just a theme for the sake of having a theme – which might be fine, in the right context. Thanks to this, the genre as a whole can be very hit or very miss.
Playing Another Sight, however, helped me kind of “get it”. It turns out that steampunk aesthetics, when handled thoughtfully, can really highlight a well-realized world. The issue here is that those foundational elements that make a game enjoyable – mechanics, narrative, and yes, aesthetic cohesion – need to be solid regardless of the genre archetypes it’s working under. Another Sight takes elements that I would otherwise shrug off due to my general malaise over steampunk’s tropeyness, and actually put them to good use as something other than a creative crutch. In short, Another Sight is “steampunk” done right.
It’s only because the world in which Another Sight takes place is so very indicative of the genre that I bring this up first. There’s much more to its story than the style it’s presented through. There are so many games on the market that try to sell you on this look and feel, but are, for lack of a better term, hollow. I’m not asking every game to have incredible depth, but if you’re going to work within a framework, having the creative chops to fill it out is important. Another Sight stands out from the genre’s haze as a very solid game, and should not be lost among the mess of cogs and gears for anyone who considers themselves a fan of steampunk.
This aesthetic cohesion – the sense that Another Sight’s world is more than just another steampunk title – is of course first and foremost aided by a total dedication to its visual design choices. It’s surprisingly detailed 2.5-dimensional environments always feel alive and are visited with purpose. I compare it to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, a game that utilizes similar design choices; as a directorial style, it’s easy to let the world fall more flat than full, something that Another Sight successfully avoids.
The level of detail put in to each foreground, backdrop, and set piece shows an extra hint of dedication to making Another Sight feel that much more alive. You never really get the drippy-rocky-bland backdrops of caves or simple scenes without much to look at. Even if it’s only for a fleeting moment, the camera will pull in and out of fully rendered sections meant only to catch the eye and beautify. Boot up the game, take one look at the starting level, and you’ll understand; there’s a little extra ‘oomph’ to how much went in to really fleshing out the game world.
While the characters only move left, right, up, and down, the sense of wholeness to the world around you is never lost. Like the genre it plays with, these visual choices didn’t have to be handled with such care, but they were. There are a lot of lazy looking 2.5D games on the market as well, so it’s satisfying to find an example of one that finally does things right.
Every level, while truncated by stopping points and starting points, run smoothly together into one unified world. The progression flows naturally but importantly eases you into the gameplay from the very beginning through simple-though-seamless introductory levels. While the player is outright prompted on how to use the controls, it’s through these first few sections that we get to see Another Sight‘s design philosophy shine; a progressive introduction of puzzle and platforming elements that finesse their way in naturally instead of forcing the player to wander blindly into the game – which is ironic, considering it’s main character’s affliction.
Fittingly, this gentle guidance on behalf of the developers is also reflected in how the playable characters interact. Kit and her friendly cat companion operate as two separate playstyles, switchable with the press of a button, but necessary in helping one another progress through each puzzle. While playing as Kit, the game’s protagonist and narrator, the world is cast in murky darkness, unobscured by audio cues that guide her from place to place. The second playable character – Kit’s quicker, smaller, feline friend – allows for a much clearer view of Another Sight’s environs, and serves as a bit of a scout for the finer details layered into each area. Kit’s semi-blindness is aided by the cat’s meowing, as well as other sounds throughout the world, so keeping the pair relatively close together is imperative to get through each area.
The introductory levels help drive home how important their symbiosis is, but just how complex this back-and-forth becomes is abundantly clear by the game’s second level. Switching between Kit and (for the sake of this review, I’ll just call him Cat) might sound like it could get annoying, but the transition is so seamless that swapping off quickly becomes second nature. While Cat is capable of more agile feats like climbing walls and slinking through tight spaces, Kit is the one pulling levers and opening doorways. That sense of harmony between both modes allows the player to go at their own pace.
I’ll admit, I’m a little slow when it comes to puzzles, so I enjoy not being punished for taking my time. That’s all on me, though; the challenges you encounter in Another Sight might not be the most complex, but are never so simple that they feel patronizing, and never quite so obtuse that they make you want to throw the game down. The pacing – including the break-up between Kit’s portions and Cat’s portions – help make up for some of it’s more recognizable designs. The worst part of Another Sight’s puzzle concepts is, perhaps, that they sometimes tread on familiar ground. However, every level hosts a number of set pieces that freely blend into one another, so even when the puzzles seem a little trite, they often play into a larger picture that better illustrates the game’s overall creativity.
This goes back to the game’s overall sense of cohesion. Not only are we playing in a steampunk world with a narrative vibe that matches its environmental aesthetics, but the puzzles themselves rarely feel uncovered by this greater thematic blanket. The style permeates every squeaky turnwheel, every rusty latch, and every section of feline parkour. The way in which Kit and Cat’s journey unfolds always pays mind to its inspirations and never really beats you over the head with its stylization; everything is thoughtfully designed, from the way in which you move from puzzle to puzzle, to the way in which those very puzzles help tell a larger story about the world you’re exploring.
Without spoiling anything, Kit’s narration and the greater arc of her journey make it easy to want to see this story through. Take into consideration the fact that you’re playing a young girl who’s lost but not alone – her only companion is the mysterious Cat (whom she recognizes off the bat is an odd figure to be talking directly too – the game is pleasantly self-aware). She’s fairly likable, considering the context through which we meet her; Kit’s reactions to the world around her are somewhat reasonable, and from an emotional standpoint she’s certainly relatable.
There’s a specific instance where she downright admits to her feline companion that she’s frightened of the journey ahead; while she’s pretty plucky from time to time, she’s not without the sort of flaws a person her age should have. With every turn, there’s a logical reason for her to keep going, with just enough narration spliced into each intermediary area between puzzle segments to illustrate her progression as a heroine.
Once you start to get to know her a little bit, especially through how she interacts with and speaks to Cat, you really want to help see the pair through their troubles. Another Sight’s well-designed levels allow for a smooth transition from chapter-to-chapter in regards to narrative, and with more complex challenges come a more complex story. Scattered throughout the levels are sidequest rewards: biographical snippets on Another Sight’s characters, which are readable through the game’s main menu. While I generally love this kind of embellishment, the fact that these characters are actually interesting – in a world that I want to see more of, by virtue of its interesting gameplay, is just icing on the cake. Finding each piece is a rewarding process, woven into the rest of the puzzles.
This lore itself is, in my opinion, an interesting enough reward to warrant hashing out these extra puzzles. You learn a bit about the game’s spin on certain historical figures, as well as it’s original cast. Of course, you can breeze through Another Sight in a few hours, but those who enjoy really getting into its world won’t be disappointed by spending a little extra time poking around. And again, it’s all typically at your own pace. From the most basic game design perspective, Another Sight conveniently autosaves from time to time, though there were a few cases where I wish there was a save function, just to make sure I got back where I left off after putting the game down.
Controlwise, there are portions that feel a little bit clunky initially, but it’s nothing so dismal as to break away from the game’s pacing. Much of what you’re supposed to do is deliberate and measured, so it’s easy to get over some of Cat’s hopping animations, even if looks a bit silly – but really, you’re a puzzle-solving supercat so, a lot can be forgiven… Kit’s occasional slowdown due to her fumbling through the dark is easily remedied by sorting out her relation to other sensory cues, so the first few minutes of the game might feel a little off; go a bit deeper, and the gameplay itself continues to reflect the rest of the Another Sight’s proclivity for cohesion.
Even the sound design is indicative of the care and decisiveness put into Another Sight’s worldbuilding. Music swells in appropriate spots, with instrumentation that twinkles in and out as you sort out puzzles and travel between areas. The voice acting itself is typically on point as well; I personally never found Kit’s talking a nuisance, where other game narrators can get a little old after a while. My personal bias leans towards a narration style that feels a little more personal (the omniscient “Bastion” style always rubbed me the wrong way) and the way in which Kit illuminates the player on certain personal aspects never feels shoehorned in. The script itself is cognizant of what’s coming out of someone’s mouth at any given time, which sounds like a pretty low bar to set, but we’re not dealing with a triple-A title here. Kit’s narration is always definitively “Kit”, which only helps in keeping up this theme of Another Sight’s consistency.
As someone who doesn’t really “get” steampunk, I’m happy to have finally found the game that helps me see some value in the genre. It’s also just nice to play a game whose story is so carefully crafted, in a way that best utilizes the medium through which it’s presented. Every visual cue and quirk, every stylistic choice, and every narrative detail is woven expertly together to tell a story that no movie or book could quite convey. Perhaps it is all of these elements finally coming together that made me see value in this genre. Another Sight might not give you the most mind breaking puzzles, or crazy platforming action, but it provides something important that requires highlighting and deserves praise: creative consistency.