Review – The Almost Gone

I have to say, that despite certain technological advantages prevalent in AAA games, indies continue to impress me the most. This is largely due to the fact that their studios aren’t pressured by large publishers to create something that will satisfy the broadest demographic as possible, and rake in the most money. Small developers are able to take their time and craft an experience all their own. The most recent example is The Almost Gone from Happy Volcano, a puzzler set apart by its fresh gameplay mechanics and deceptively dark narrative.

In The Almost Gone, you play as a child caught in between life and death. While in this limbo, questions fill your mind. Where is everyone? What happened to me? Why are things different than I remember? And most importantly, why am I stuck here? These enigmas drive you forward as you look for answers to your predicament.

The Almost Gone

The darkness threatens to consume everything.

Gameplay-wise, The Almost Gone is a narrative focused, point-and-click style game. Each room or scene is set up like a diorama, with you being able to rotate them 360º to find objects that are hidden from views in other directions. This is The Almost Gone‘s main gameplay gimmick. In a way, it reminds me of The Gardens Between in this manner, and I loved the ingenuity of it. It further symbolizes that you can’t see the whole story without looking at it from every angle.

The Almost Gone

That’s quite the parking job.

This game also features numerous puzzles. While the majority of them are solved by carefully rotating each room to locate items needed to progress, there are a few that don’t follow this formula. I won’t say that the puzzles are particularly difficult, but there are several that will require you to thoroughly investigate the objects you’ve collected. I was stumped a couple times while trying to figure out a solution, only to go back and look at the items in my inventory and realize the answer was right in front of my face. This game does give you a good sense of accomplishment once you’ve figured something out.

The Almost Gone

An unusual combination for a safe.

 

Visually, The Almost Gone has an aesthetically pleasing and almost cute look to it. Every room of each new area looks like a diorama of sorts. The graphics aren’t mind blowingly realistic, but instead adopt a clean and clear art style. It gives the player a feeling like they’re staring at different rooms within a dollhouse. A very tragic dollhouse. This helps to enforce the surreal nature of the protagonist’s plight and I felt was a brilliant move to better convey the message behind it.

The Almost Gone doesn’t feature any sort of voice work whatsoever. The soundtrack is subtle and only sparsely woven in at certain points. However, I feel that this was the smarter choice as it adds to the immersion. The sound effects are capably helmed and deliver one of the only sources of realism within the game.

Childhood Room

The cycle of abuse is destined to repeat itself.

As with many small independent games, The Almost Gone walks the line between gaming entertainment and art. The subject matter is far darker than you would think from just looking at the art style, but the message is bound to evoke some deeper emotions for certain players. It’s not what I would necessarily call a “fun time”, but the puzzles are enjoyable, the scenes are intriguing, and the journey is profound. It’s not an experience you’ll want to play repeatedly, but for the current pricetag, it’s absolutely worth engaging in.

Graphics: 8.0

The diorama designed art style is distinctive and has a purposely muted color palette that works well with the tone of the game.

Gameplay: 9.0

Simple point-and-click styled gameplay, but it has the unique feature of moving the scenes around so you can find things that might be hidden in other angles. The puzzles aren’t complicated, but play well to the narrative.

Sound: 7.0

No voice acting, but the sound effects and the subtle soundtrack are well done.

Fun Factor: 8.0

The cute look of the game hides a well crafted narrative concerning themes of abuse, addiction, destruction, and trauma. While not the most “fun” game, it’s an experience I appreciated.

Final Verdict: 8.0

The Almost Gone is available now on Switch. iOS, Android, and PC.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of The Almost Gone was provided by the publisher.

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