I seem to always find myself playing these minimalist puzzle games. Something about the laid-back nature of their gameplay, their light aesthetic, and nice music always keep me on the lookout for new ones. So here we have one that seems to fit all of that and tell an actual story in the process — I had to check it out.
If you’re familiar with game The Room and its sequels, this game plays very similarly. You’re given this puzzle that involves a bunch of smaller steps to complete and moving around the puzzle will slowly reveal bits and pieces to help you put together a solution. This can be anything from an object that needs to be picked up and placed elsewhere to an electrical panel that needs to be tinkered with to unlock the next area. This is also where the game’s puzzle design shines, as, just like The Room, these seemingly small puzzles add up to something much more and it’s cool to have this sense of progression while playing.
What makes it even better is that the game actually manages to tell a decent story through these puzzles. A lot of the objects you pick up will oftentimes be accompanied with a short description of the character’s thoughts on it, which in turn reveals details about the overall story. These can be small details like trash bags in the corner of the room to major ones like legal documents.
Of course, this is on top of game’s puzzles actually taking place in areas relevant to the story, the game really thrives on environmental storytelling. The story is rather depressing, but it was at least told in a very cool manner.
As for the difficulty, I wouldn’t say it’s too difficult a game, but when you have a bunch of these little things to do, the complexity can quickly stack up and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t stuck at least a couple times during my playthrough. There are some puzzles that span upwards of ten or so rooms, so there’s definitely a lot of ground to cover.
The downside to this is that, while the puzzle design itself is generally pretty good, it does rely a bit on pixel hunting. By that, I mean that there are items and such that need to be clicked on that are so small that it’s very easy to miss them. That or they blend in perfectly with the environment, leading to situations where I began spam clicking certain areas hoping to find the object that I need to progress. It isn’t every puzzle that was like this, but enough so that it needs to be mentioned.
My main complaint is actually with the game’s UI. This is a game developed for mobile devices first and it shows in just about every aspect of its design. From the awkward mouse controls that are obviously adapted from touch controls to the the large amounts of wasted screen space, it’s very obvious that this is a mobile game port.
In fact, part of the reason why the pixel hunting segments stood out to me was simply because everything, not just those specific objects, is so small in comparison to the amount of screen space used. I ran the game at 1440p, and while the game does work properly at that resolution, the gameplay almost entirely takes place in the very center of it, leaving a ton of blank space around it. You’re unable to zoom in or out of that space, so it can definitely make certain areas of the game harder to see.
Altogether though, I would say that The Almost Gone is deserving of a light recommendation. It has some good puzzle design going for it, an interesting story to match, and an aesthetic that I can definitely get behind. However, the game does suffer from its reliance on pixel hunting and its lackluster UI, which do bring down the experience a bit. It’s still a decent enough game, but it might be worth waiting for a sale first.
You can buy The Almost Gone on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.