Of course, Anne’s journey isn’t as simple as chatting with a few forgotlings and wandering the city streets. Various puzzles serve as obstacles in her path. For the most part these require manipulating switches and levers to direct anima to the likes of mechanical doors, lights and bridges in order to open up new paths. In many cases it’s not as simple as it sounds, though. Machines that Anne can directly affect are connected by conduits to the objects that Anne’s trying to affect, but usually Anne has to go into a sort of “Arca vision” to manipulate the conduits themselves.
When using the Arca, the screen transitions to a dark, wavery blue overlay of the current view. Here, anything that can be powered by anima is brightly outlined, while anything that is currently charged with anima or has anima running through it is filled with glowing blue, and anything that is unpowered is left with a dark silhouette. In this mode you can move a selection circle about the screen, hovering it over the various pieces of equipment. If Anne’s Arca is uncharged, you can pull the anima from anything that is charged and vice versa. You can also switch the paths anima flows through to help connect switches to the things you want to manipulate. For example, you might encounter a T-shaped conduit where one end goes to a battery, another goes to a light, and the third end goes to a door, with the conduit currently configured to power the light. You can manipulate the conduit by clicking and dragging the T-intersection to rotate how the couplings are oriented so that the power goes from the battery to the door instead, causing it to open. Some of these anima puzzles get quite involved by the end of the game, requiring you to plan out which conduits to move, and when and where you need to send anima in order to progress.
Occasionally you will also encounter larger locked doors that have a number of grooves carved into them and disks that sit in the grooves. Again using your Arca, you need to move the disks to specific holes in the grooves to get the right combination to open the door. When you select a given disk, the hole it needs to be moved into will light up. However, each disk can only move along a certain path and frequently disks get in the way of one another so that you have to figure out the correct order in which to move them. These doors play a bit like standard slider puzzles but the twists on how they operate are enough to make them feel unique to Forgotton Anne.
Overall the puzzles are well done. Although there are not a lot of different types, there’s enough exploration, conversation, and story progression in between that I never felt the obstacles growing stale. It should be noted that I did run into one scenario in the engine of a train where it’s possible to use up all the anima available without actually solving the puzzle. This left me in a walking dead situation where I was unable to proceed and was forced to reload the last checkpoint, as the game does not allow you to save freely. Fortunately there was a checkpoint fairly close to this dead end so restoring wasn’t a big issue, but of course it shouldn’t have been necessary. Apart from this one instance, I didn’t encounter any other situations where it seemed possible to mess things up to the point where progress was no longer an option.
Throughout the adventure, most of your travels are accompanied by simple background music. However, the orchestra can sometimes get in the way during cutscenes, to the point where the music drowns out the voice actors. With no separate settings for voice and music volume, you’ll probably want to keep the subtitles turned on so that you don’t miss any relevant dialog. This is important even when you’re just wandering about, as you can overhear forgotlings talking to each other in the background but usually their voices are intentionally muffled since you’re listening to them through thin walls or from some distant vantage point. The voice-overs themselves are well done, especially Anne and Fig, although you may notice some similar voices in the secondary forgotlings as the same actors perform multiple characters.
As Forgotton Anne does contain some platforming-type elements, it’s not controlled through any sort of typical point-and-click interface. You can use the keyboard and mouse to control Anne, and ordinarily that’s my preferred method of playing games in general. However, in this instance I found using a controller felt better, with a thumbstick moving Anne left and right through the environment (and occasionally up and down). One trigger makes Anne sprint over short distances and another can be used briefly to make her jump higher than normal, with the remaining mechanics handled by the standard gamepad buttons.
My first playthrough of Forgotton Anne took me about six hours, taking the path of compassion, then I replayed it being the no-mercy Enforcer. Overall the story plays out the same but the nuances are quite a bit different, especially when it comes to fully distilling forgotlings or not. In an interesting twist, I encountered one forgotling with strong emotional ties to Anne that I was forced to distill on the compassionate path but was able to talk my way past by staying more in line with being the Enforcer. The game culminates in a final choice that leads to one of two different endings. You are free to choose either of them regardless of what decisions you’ve made before, and the way in which the story progresses makes both endings valid outcomes, which is a fine testament to the writing. I must admit, even jaded as I am, there were a number of moments, including the finales, that I found quite emotionally moving, and I really enjoyed the central concept of lost things taking on a life of their own.
Upon completing the game you get access to a special play mode called “The Bridge”, which allows you to go back to any areas to search for missing collectibles or to try other choices with the different characters you meet. The latter ability is definitely one that more choice-driven games should incorporate. It’s nice to be able to go back to an important decision and see how events would have unfolded differently if you’d gone the other way, without having to play the entirety of the game again to get to that point.
Forgotton Anne may have some mild platforming in it, but it’s really a side-scroller intended for adventure gamers. Here we have a well-told tale of prejudice, acceptance, and self-sacrifice, which, combined with the lovely hand-painted environments and wonderfully voiced, beautifully drawn anime-styled characters, makes the experience a treat. Being able to shape Anne’s character through the choices you make is the icing on the cake, even if it does seem at odds with her journal at first before finally connecting in tone. It’s certainly not your typical adventure, but even for those without the fastest reflexes, it’s well worth looking into if you’re up for something a little different.