Saturday , May 18 2024

Videogame Review: ‘Viewfinder’ – Through the Looking Glass into a Smart and Engaging Puzzle Game

The game Viewfinder has been causing waves in previews with its inversion of environments in real time. There are few games that generate even one or two “wow” moments, but Viewfinder was consistently generating incredible moments for me for its entire length.

This first-person adventure game revolves around entering a virtual lab searching for a device to help reverse a climate crisis. The story is fairly minimal and told mostly through audio logs or calls from a helper back in the lab, but the gameplay and tech at work are all the game needs.

The core gameplay loop is based on using photos to solve puzzles or reach other areas of a level. This is done by holding up the photo and placing it where desired. This makes the photo essentially a new 3D part of the level and is fully traversable.

In some scenarios pictures are found, in others you take them with a fixed camera or a small polaroid that you find during the game. As you progres,s light, sound and color mixing also take part in creating new portals into a located image.

The effect and process truly need to be seen to be believed. Developer Sad Owl Studios implements them in such a magical way. In literally every level I was amazed by the crazy things I could do as images were placed or activated.

One time I had to activate a power source that is triggered by sound. The problem is the sound activator was on an inaccessible ledge. I took multiple pictures of the activator and placed them overlapped in a row towards the power source. Each image activated the next one until the final power source clicked on. It was a magical moment amongst many over the course of this great game.

What struck me as well in Viewfinder is the melancholy nature of the game. While there are no cutscenes or large story beats, all the little ones, the clues, audio recordings, the Post-It notes and research letters painted a picture for me.

The group of scientists who created these labs and environments were all unique individuals. Some loved exercise, others music and art, and some had differing approaches to the science. This not only made the levels different but paved way for new and innovative uses of the tech to solve puzzles.

While just using photos to create new spaces or to access other areas would be plenty, Viewfinder introduces many other techniques as it progresses. Leveraging color filters, spatial images, sound and even selfie teleportation kept the game innovating level after level.

I have not been this in awe of level design and innovative approaches to puzzles since Portal. That is possibly the highest praise I could give and I truly place Viewfinder at that level of innovative and breathtaking design.

While Viewfinder is a fairly short experience, I cannot stress enough how this is a game that truly needs to be played to appreciate its sheer brilliance. In a loaded season of releases, Viewfinder is a must-play experience and is on my list of top games this year.

We were given a PS5 copy of Viewfinder for review purposes. The game is available right now for PC via Steam and PlayStation 4|5.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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