“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.” – Eckhart Tolle
Unwording is a short but insightful exploration of overcoming negative thoughts and other aspects of depression. Players can explore, solve word puzzles and help the protagonist, Tom, find a new outlook on life.
Developer: Frostwood Interactive
Released: 27th April 2023
As Tom explores his limited environment, his thoughts surrounding certain objects or events will appear to the player. A selection of word puzzles allows the player to reframe those thoughts, going from neutral to negative and eventually to positive. For example ‘start work’ becomes ‘procrastinate’ which then becomes ‘just start. The puzzles include rearranging letters to find new thoughts, perspective-based puzzles and a typing game where the player has to find the right word in order to interact with an object. They can get q little tricky at times but there is an easy mode available if needed. This will offer more hints and extra information to the player.
The controls are mostly keyboard based and are fairly intuitive however do feel a bit cumbersome at times and a mouse or controller might have been more suitable to the types of movement required. Additionally, there were a couple of small issues such as awkward camera angles and the character once getting trapped outside of the game’s playable area and having to reload.
Unwording’s puzzles and exploration is broken up with shortcut scenes that depict how things are going for Tom and the little bird companion that follows him around. These add extra insight to the already informative puzzles that represent Tom’s negative interpretation of the things around him.
The game offers a surface-level look at depression and the ways that negative thoughts can intrude and interrupt a person’s day. It is perhaps slightly too brief a look at such problems and the implication that they can be overcome over the course of three days is perhaps a little problematic. That being said, the subject matter is handled sensitively and Unwording does do a good job of showing how depression can distort interpretations of reality and have a real impact. There is also an element of humour to be found, which adds a lighter touch and stops the experience from feeling too heavy overall. The game’s menu also contains a link to resources about cognitive distortions and negative thoughts.
Unwording starts with a simple monochromatic 2D drawing with pencil/crayon style outlines and a melancholy purple colour palette. Gradually, as Tom begins to take positive steps to overcome his negative thoughts, textures, colour and detail are added, as well as switching to 3D. Over time the colours also become more vibrant and saturated, indicating a shift in perspective and mood. Similarly, the music, which begins with moody ethereal droning, gradually builds to include different melodies and instruments such as piano and strings. These aesthetic representations of Tom’s journey are a wonderful addition to the game and help make the experience more comprehensive and emotive.
Overall, Unwording is a cute and moving game that offers a brief look at how it might feel for somebody battling cognitive distortions and negative thoughts. It will take around 1-2 hours to play and carefully combines gameplay, narrative and styling elements to create a comprehensive and emotive experience that a lot of people will be able to relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed this game and would highly recommend it to fans of narrative-driven puzzles and word games.
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Letters: A Written Adventure – A New Word Puzzle about Friendship! – Anagraphs: Newly Released, Free Word-Game with a Twist – Haimrik – A Literacy-Based Adventure!