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Review: Forgotton Anne (PlayStation 4)By The Strat Man At 04.08.2018 17:41

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Forgotton Anne takes place in bizarre and intriguing universe known as 'The Forgotton Land,' where everything long-forgotten ends up. It's populated by a ridiculous cast of formerly inanimate objects, such as scarfs, lampshades, and teddy-bears, all of whom gain consciousness, memory of their former lives, and the ability to move around in this mysterious setting. These 'Forgotlings' are both friends and foes to the protagonist, Anne the Enforcer, who acts as the right-hand of the other human character, Master Bonku, as they attempt to silence a rebellion amongst the city that supposedly threatens their hopes of returning to the human world via a bridge under construction. It's without a doubt some wacky Spirited Away-style nonsense, but it just wouldn't work if the characters themselves weren't so entertaining and colourful. This is partly down to some excellent voice acting, and a large array of accents and attitudes, from a grumpy chain-smoking teddy bear to an anxiety-ridden lampshade. However, beneath this insane exterior is a deep and thoughtful non-linear narrative that keeps the player pushing through.

Master Bonku is quite the oppressive dictator, having forced the majority of the Forgotlings into assigned roles. Most slave away in a factory, shrouded in secrecy, that generates anima, which is an energy source required to build the bridge back to the human world. The working class has supposedly been promised access to this gateway once it's finished. The rebels, however, are sceptical and endeavour to sabotage these efforts, effectively throwing the city into a civil war of sorts. Anne acts as enforcer to her leader, and she is equipped with a device that can harvest anima from containers around the universe, but also directly from Forgotlings, which murders them in the process. These narrative elements start out predictably enough, but in time allow for some very clever commentary on class struggle, also throwing up many moral dilemmas in which Anne's decisions have a real consequence on the story progression. Aspects of this are predictable, but it's extremely effective since the narrative is carried so well by the cast, excellent voice acting, and player choice ramifications.

Forgotton Anne really does look amazing. Its hand-drawn anime aesthetic really is of an extremely high quality, which is impressive considering this is an indie title with, presumably, a reasonably small budget. The Forgotton Land is a striking setting, with gloomy vistas and highly detailed and polished interiors. All of this is enhanced by the excellent use of lighting, plus a very nice sense of depth implied via foreground and background layers. On top of all that, the animations are gorgeous and the musical score, provided by the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, really does enhance all these filmic qualities. The sound in general is of a high quality, especially the voice acting, which is very diverse and always entertaining. With that said, though, one or two characters have overly extreme accents that are quite annoying. Overall, though, these aspects in combination really help to nail the immersion, and the sense of story and setting. At its best, it really does feel like a film in the vein of a Miyazaki project. One minor gripe is that Anne has a lot of text-based responses when investigating, which would have been better off as proper dialogue.

The platforming sections aren't particularly complicated or challenging, but since everything looks so fantastic, it's very tempting to guide Anne through every single nook and cranny. That's especially true since there are memorable side-mission encounters that the protagonist might have missed if not going a-searching. Anne requires a lot of anima for puzzle sections and other tasks, which also encourages occasional back-tracking and exploration. It can be a bit arduous backpedalling, though, especially as the feel of the platforming isn't anywhere near as silky smooth as the animations and visuals. The protagonist is equipped with mechanical wings to make long leaps, and this isn't quite as effortless as it should be. The basic movement also feels a little delayed and less responsive than is needed. This makes tighter sections a bit of a chore. It is not a big issue in the grand scheme of things, but it is a shame, since everything else seems so polished. The puzzles mostly revolve around funnelling anima through the right pipes to power up and activate this or that, which never gets too complicated - the right decision to keep things flowing.

Once completed, the game allows players to return to certain checkpoints to do the secondary exploration, hunt down remaining collectibles, and see how things pan out when Anne makes a different decision. This is a nice luxury, rather than forcing people to restart the experience entirely. However, it's not as convenient as it should be, since you can't skip any of the dialogue. Granted, a lot of work has gone into this aspect, and making different choices and saying different things to characters strongly influences how they react to you, but there's an awful lot of dialogue prior to these pivotal moral-choice moments that players will have to sit through again. Not being able to skip these scenes is the right call on the first play-through, to stop people rushing through without digesting the story that it successfully invests in. However, for the second playthrough, or when revisiting certain checkpoints, the option to skip sections would have made sense; yet this is on the whole another very minor issue.

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Final Score
[i]Forgotton Anne[/i] is a unique and strikingly cinematic experience, which makes a valiant attempt to unify the finesse of anime films with interactive gameplay. The 'Forgotton Land' is a suitably whimsical universe, brought to life not just by excellent art design, animation, music, memorable characters, and voice acting, but also a poignant non-linear narrative. Initially, certain elements of the story seem a tad predictable, but it gets infinitely more gripping as the plot develops and the player-choice ramifications emerge. ThroughLine Games made the right call in keeping the anima puzzles and platforming elements relatively simple, as well as not allowing Anne to die. These decisions ensure a steady and progressive flow, keeping the spotlight on the game's greatest strengths. With that said, considering how gorgeous the animation work is, it's a shame that the platforming itself feels somewhat cumbersome, and not particularly fluid. Regardless, this is an excellent side-scrolling adventure.

7

/10

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