“Those who believe love is a scarcity are less likely to give it away freely.” – Cole Arthur Riley
The Almost Gone is an award-winning narrative puzzle game that tells an emotive tale of life, death and connections through a series of intricate dioramas.
Developer: Happy Volcano
Released: 15th June 2020
Price: £3.39 – £8.99
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Switch
Available on: Steam, Google Play, App Store, eShop
The Almost Gone takes place over five chapters, each one made up of a variety of small, connected dioramas with simple maps. Players must explore these, inspecting items, looking for clues and solving puzzles in order to progress and further the story. There is a good range of puzzle types to be solved including logic, inventory, perspective, hidden object as well as combination locks and more. They offer a good level of challenge, requiring thorough investigation of the environments and attention to detail. They are not too difficult however and the overall feel of the gameplay remains quite casual throughout. The controls are simple and intuitive and work well with the type of mechanics and puzzles being implemented.
Narrative and Styling
The game appears to take place in a dream, or within the mind of the protagonist as they recollect their past and process their trauma. The story is told slowly through exploration, visiting new rooms or sections of the map and inspecting items will often reveal information about the past surrounding them. It is an emotive tale that touches on some hard-hitting subjects including, neglect, abuse, alcoholism, divorce, mental health and death. Unfortunately, there is a looseness to the storytelling that results in a slight lack of substance when it comes to these themes, more information about the characters and their relationships would have added a bit more depth to the story and made its conclusion ultimately more satisfying.
The Almost Gone is made up of a series of low-poly, isometric, 3D dioramas depicting a range of locations, such as a police car in a tree, a hospital ward or a simple household kitchen. There is a decent amount of detail but the overall appearance is fairly minimal which matches the often monochromatic colour palettes in muted and pastel shades. Each chapter of the game uses a different colour palette to match the location which adds interest and is a nice additional indicator of progression. The aesthetic is simple and easy on the eyes, which suits the style of gameplay but belies the dark nature of the narrative.
The atmospheric sound design features ethereal drones, throbbing noises and eerie, ambient sound effects such as the wind which merge together to add to the surreal nature of the game and increase the sense of drama. This is cleverly reflective of the narrative and gameplay and really elevates the overall experience.
The Almost Gone is a casual and unassuming title that masks its ominous vibes and harrowing story elements with its minimalistic visuals and gentle colour palettes. Whilst the narrative delivery missed the mark at times, the dramatic sound design and satisfying puzzles were fantastic and really stood out as highlights of the experience. This game, which will take around 2-4 hours to complete, is a great example of a narrative-focused puzzler and I am happy to recommend it to fans of the genre.
For more narrative-focused puzzle games, check out these reviews:
Birth – A Delightfully Gruesome Point-and-Click Puzzle Game – Spirits of Baciu: Prologue – An Enigmatic and Challenging Puzzle Adventure – Lost in Play – A Surprisingly Tricky Puzzle Adventure!