The Almost Gone is a point-and-click adventure that involves puzzles spread across dioramas. Inside each square are pieces of the world with which a player can interact. These offer small morsels of truth and perspective of a family thats experienced crisis after crisis.
It looks beautiful, but it gets dark.
You can rotate each panel or square to fully explore the environment and the puzzles are either completed within one square or within one environment.
What I like about puzzle games is the feeling of delight whenever an obstacle is overcome. Discovering the right maneuver, the right interaction, or the right combination of actions is a joy and the narrative of The Almost Gone encourages you to continue by revealing more and more of this world. Its like a wreck that you cant look away from. Youre glad it isnt happening to you, but the tragedy of it is an instant reminder of our mortality and of the fragility of life.
Things that are whole can easily be broken and once the fissures start to form, they cant be stopped.
That exploration of the narrative is what strengthens the gameplay. Unlike my time with 1971 Project Helios, the mechanics of The Almost Gone are intricately tied to the world-building. The whole is greater than just the sum of its parts.
I did experience some frustration with puzzles throughout the game, though. Several are rather obtuse and it takes a while to figure out how to proceed if you missed some obvious (or minuscule) clue. And given the nature of the visual design, you can only see the diorama youre in. If you want to backtrack, you either need to remember the exact orientation and direction of your previous path or you must wander between all of the dioramas until you retrace your steps.
And that leads to another area of discussion. Yes, the game is short and the maps arent huge, but it would be nice to have some mini-map or menu option that can allow you to see where youre at in relation to where you want to go.
Maybe that would mess with the immersion. Maybe it would take away from the feeling of confused wandering and soul-searching that the narrator is providing. But it would ultimately make the gameplay more smooth, and I think its something that should have been considered more heavily.
It could easily be added in a later update, but its something that I think would improve the player experience.
For the most part, though, The Almost Gone is an engrossing experience with calm and tranquil gameplay thats contrasted by traumatic revelations that ebb and flow from the reflective mind of Joost Vandecasteele.
Its an indie game that highlights some of the best innovative design and creative ideas that small studios are able to share.
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