The Almost Gone is another Belgian-made game I’ve seen through multiple stages of its development, but I’ve never had the opportunity to play past the first chapter until now.
The visual style is immediately striking, with its isometric perspective and pastel colours. The environments are full of tiny details and are pleasing to look at, which is a good thing as you’ll be inspecting every nook & cranny for clues while rotating the rooms and environments.
The level-rotation gameplay is very satisfying in some weird way, but I was surprised to discover that the Switch version didn’t support the touch-screen controls I remember from my first hands-on with the game. Instead, you’ll be using the shoulder buttons to flip the camera angle and the Right Analog to quickly navigate between rooms.
But first, let’s set the story: You “wake up”, for lack of a better word, in the bedroom of your parental house, locked in. As you progress from room to room, looking for objects that will help you get past doors and other forms of locks, you’ll discover more about your father and mother. How he’s an architect and loved taking you on camping trips, and how your mother was unhappy with the relationship and sought comfort in alcohol and pills.
You’ll make your way through 5 chapters in this method, taking you to different locations and times that have been important to your family’s legacy and discovering the sad stories that lay hidden behind the veil. It’s almost impossible to go into more detail without giving away any plot points, so I’ll leave you to discover them for yourself. Just be aware that the story takes some dark turns and delves into mature themes; even though there is no gore or horror, it’s not a game intended for a younger audience.
The delivery of the story leaves an impact, but I felt like it could have really benefited from a voice-over, narrating your inner thoughts and reading the items’ descriptions out loud. Especially because the latter are on the small side and I found myself bringing the Switch closer from time to time when playing in handheld mode, despite my 2020 eyesight.
The puzzles are exquisite with some really clever environmental interactions. Some highlights include:
- Using a gun’s laser pointer to highlight hidden items
- Using message-tubes in a hospital
- Rebuilding an old maquette
The exploration is satisfying when you find that item you were scavenging for, but it can be equally frustrating if you have no idea where to go next or in which zone you may have skipped a clickable pixel. It’s not so much an issue with the game, as with the genre as a whole. Making it too easy would detract from the experience and length. Admittedly, the temptation has been there more than once to contact one of the developers and ask them for a hint.
Playing through the game at a leisurely pace will take you around 4 hours, depending on how quickly you find all the necessary objects and how good you are at navigating through the world map. I myself found myself lost on multiple occasions because I lost my bearing after rotating the levels one too many times. A legend or indicator of some kind that shows where you are in the larger environment could have helped significantly.
The Almost Gone is a wonderful point-and-click adventure but don’t let the charming style misguide you: it has a dark, mature story to tell. The puzzles are clever and satisfying but you could find yourself frustrated if you get lost or if you missed an obvious item to interact with. Definitely worth a single playthrough!
*A Nintendo Switch Review copy was given to us by the developer
Prefer to see the game in action? I’ve got you covered: