Life gets challenging sometimes; life is hard. The lens of our worldview gets clouded with mental filters and hardships. In the journey of seeming efficient, desirable, and worthy to the cold-hearted outside world, we lose warmth for our inner world. The words we use for ourselves begin to crush our spirits. Perhaps moments like those call for an ‘Unwording’, a silent effort, an unsaid expression of compassion for ourselves. What better way to learn such a skill than through the beautiful new game of Unwording, developed by one-man studio Frostwood Interactive!
Unwording is an appreciable effort by developer Armaan Sandhu at bringing awareness of the struggles of cognitive distortion and teaching its players to overcome it through unique word puzzles and the journey of Tom-our protagonist – and learn to see life through new perspectives, quite literally.
Unwording launches on April 27, 2023, for Windows, Mac and Linux on Steam and GOG for $4.99 / £4.29 / €4.59, featuring a 10% discount as part of the Steam Puzzle Fest (April 24 – May 1) and LudoNarraCon (May 4 – 8).
Soon You’ll Get Better
When we are introduced to Tom at the beginning of the game, his character and the world around him are 2D, much like his worldview. We watch as he interprets little instances in his life with a pessimistic point of view. For example, he observes his colleagues chatting and assumes they must be secretly ridiculing him. When it’s time to wake up, all his mind tells him to do is give up. However, his gloomy outlook slowly dissolves when a bright yellow bird flies into his life and metaphorically gives beautiful wings to Tom’s mind, as well.
The newly found wings of his mind slightly push him to view the world a little differently. To present this seemingly minute growth in mindset, developer Armaan Sandhu intelligently makes Tom’s world perspective shift to 2.5D. Tom eventually accepts his life, takes steps not to allow his insecurities to mask his opportunities, and begins to appreciate the world around him for its beauty. With brighter colours and more depth, his world finally shifts to 3D, and so does his outlook.
Witnessing Tom’s 3-day journey makes players introspect on how they talk to themselves. Unwording’s great message through imaginative symbolism helps one learn to be gentle with oneself.
Twisting, Turning and Transforming
Unwording works on the mechanics of moving around puzzle pieces to create words that ultimately help express the game’s central idea without any dialogue. As the game progresses and Tom transforms his life, the messages and the methods of solving the puzzles shift into new dimensions.
In its essence, this is a bright idea by the developer. However, the execution of the same ended up lacking. Navigating the world through 2.5D could be challenging for players due to a vague sense of depth. Moreover, the word puzzles on the last day expect the player to write messages manually to interact with their surroundings. The game only picks up a few variations of the word it expects one to add, which might confuse some players.
However, the primary issue is the blocks of the word puzzles. In 2D, the blocks automatically change perspectives at the right angle (90 degrees) on rotation. But, once the game shifts to 2.5D, the bird ruffles the blocks, and the players are expected to arrange the puzzle pieces by spinning in 3D. The game only accepts the words if these puzzles are horizontally straight, which can further frustrate a player.
Some setbacks in the mechanics can challenge the heart-warming and inspiring design and concept of the game. But Unwording still proves to be a tremendous thought-provoking effort.
Clocking in under 2-hours, Unwording is a short but sweet journey that uses simple word puzzles and an intelligent gameplay of dimensions to help players learn to replace their gloom-tinted glasses with rose ones. It shows how if only one opens the windows to their lives and hearts, something beautiful could fly in and change their lives for the better in unexpected ways.
FINAL RATING: 70/100Disclaimer: This copy of the game for the PC platform was provided by the developer for review purposes without any riders.