Horror on a small scale.
Content warning: The Almost Gone is a tale that deals with themes like mental health and abusive families. While this review will try to avoid going into any specific details regarding the story, please be aware that the themes in this game might be triggering for survivors of abuse or trauma.
I am fortunate enough to have never experienced any true traumatic events. Sure, my life has not been perfect, but thankfully I grew up in a loving household. But I am fully aware that is not the case for everyone. People can’t choose their parents and they have tremendous influence over the childhood of their children. If parents or guardians are still dealing with their own trauma, there is a high probability this might reflect onto their own children. The Almost Gone is a story about how trauma is not necessarily created in a vacuum and how it entraps people into vicious cycles. While the gameplay isn’t fully refined, the tale this puzzler tells is a sober and harrowing reflection on the impact of trauma.
In The Almost Gone you explore several locations, looking for clues to figure out what happened to the members of your family. You can look around these rooms by turning them around and shifting your perspective. The gameplay much resembles an escape room. By interacting with the environment, you can find clues and hints to unlock doors, find secrets and discover more about past events. The art-style shifts from stylistic pastel colors to creeping shadows and dark corners. Although it sounds rather straightforward, the game does an incredible job of twisting the atmosphere and using the gameplay to communicate the emotions in the story. In every room the walls are closing in. There is no easy escape possible. The only way forward is by digging up the truth of what happened and confronting the choices made in the past.
But just like any escape room, not all puzzles are created equal. While most puzzles are clever and rely on your observational skills and logical deduction, some can get confusing and abstract real fast. There were one or two occasions where I got stuck and didn’t know any logical way to progress further. Of course, with enough time and perception any puzzle can be solved, but this balance did tend to shift around a bit in my three hours with the game. Additionally, the game’s controls did not feel too intuitive. I was disappointed to discover that touch controls aren’t supported, which would fit the game quite well. Moving from room to room using the right stick also did not tend to work from time to time, which got quite annoying.
In conclusion, The Almost Gone is a haunting experience that uses its gameplay and style to tell a strong tale about traumatic events. The game does have issues with regards to the balance of the puzzles and optimization for the Switch, but left me with a lot of complex feelings. If you are looking for a story driven puzzle game with a great story, you will not forget The Almost Gone anytime soon.