What happens when something is forgotten? If you’ve ever lost a sock, struggled to find your scarf just when a cold snap hits in the middle of winter, or left a squid hat that was a birthday present at a bar, you might wonder where on earth it’s ended up. We’ve all lost things and never found them again in the past, no matter how hard we’ve searched, and in Forgotton Anne, those objects disappear from our world, tumbling down into another realm where they’re suddenly imbued with life.
In their midsts are two humans, Master Bonku and the titular Anne, seeking to get home by building an Ether Bridge to cross the divide. They’ve enlisted the help of the many forgotlings that would also love to return to the human world – a shoe that just wants to feel his owners foot again, a lamp that wants to light her owners room – but there are those who want to stay. It’s a rebel attack on the city that wakes Anne in the middle of the night and sends her off on her adventure.
Simply put, the game looks stunning, taking deep inspiration from old Japanese anime and western animated films. It’s a combination of layered 3D environments and 2D character art, but the way that the lighting effects come into play dynamically as you move around, and the occasional moments that bring you closer to the characters with bespoke animated scenes work wonderfully well.
There’s some really lovely voice acting throughout this as well, and characters like Anne, Master Bonku and Mr. Fig really capture the right spud that you’d expect from a classic film. The side characters are a little more hit and miss, but the world is one that’s full of whimsy and pastiche. There’s a dullard, slow talking bowling ball, a gun called Chief Inspector Magnum, Change the piggy bank and Jab the punchbag. They’re all imbued with life, whether it’s their power cord turning to become a hand or the way a blanket takes a rather humanoid form despite being empty.
Of course, there’s twists and turns through the story, as Anne discovers more about the world, gains new perspectives and uncovers her own mysterious past. It’s a fairly classical tale and you won’t be terribly surprised by the path it takes, but there’s some nice, dark overtones to it. All the forgotlings have an energy within them called Anima, and it’s this energy that also helps power many of the things in the world, from lights and gates to lifts and trains. Anne has the Arca, a fancy glove that lets her view the power conduits and take and move Anima from one place to another. That includes sapping the life from a forgotling, and with her title being the Enforcer, the way that forgotlings have to be certified by Bonku to work, and the large industrial build up, there’s definitely more than a few dark overtones to the story.
As you encounter different people and situations, you’re often given a choice on how to proceed, which can often be as simple as two meaningless choices in a conversation or deciding whether to kill or spare a suspected rebel. Are you going to play the no-nonsense enforcer, or be more lenient? Those decisions can come up again later, but they’re largely window dressing to a linear story.
The game blends together some fairly straightforward platforming with these anima juggling puzzles, but some frustration does creep in, simply by virtue of the classic animation style. The low frame rate animation gives the game that 80s anime feel, but it also affects your inputs which, when there’s a fair amount of platforming and leaping between ledges, feels much too imprecise. There’s also far, far too many stairs to run up and down, and the crawling animation just looks weird. The game is forgiving in its platforming and there’s no spiky pits to fall into that kill you, but it’s a constant feeling of discomfort as you play.
Then there’s other minor points of poorly thought out design, such as something you need to vault over that looks like a shadow in the foreground – I was stuck here for 30 minutes thinking I’d found a progression bug before accidentally working out how to vault. When shuffling anima from one node to the next with the Arca, it’s slightly frustrating that you can’t manipulate switches when the Arca is empty, adding a little needless annoyance when you know the general solution, and some of the more avant-garde puzzles aren’t polished enough and on one or two occasions I had to load the last save to reset them. Again, they’re little instances of awkwardness and annoyance.
Capturing the essence of classic animated films, Forgotton Anne is a gorgeous game to look at and tells a whimsical tale of forgotten things come to life. As lovely as the style is, it also affects the substance of the game, with the low frame rate animations leading to awkward feeling platforming and some puzzles that are rough around the edges. If you can look past the flaws, there’s still a rather lovely and charming tale here to explore.
Version tested: PS4 – Also available on Xbox One & PC