First of all: it’s sad we have to open with this, but we can’t be silent about misconduct at work. We want our industry to be a safe place for people of diverse genders and backgrounds, to create their best work. FLEGA stands by all victims. If you are a victim of such misbehavior here in Flanders, reach out to 1712 (link in Dutch).
Now then, on to the order of the day.
Without a shred of doubt, one of the most promising Belgian games ever, the five year wait for The Almost Gone is finally over. The anticipation for this narrative adventure, built over the many years of development, attending festival and winning awards, was so high we can feel the sighs of relief from our proud member Happy Volcano blowing through our open window.
The idea for the game formerly known as Winter was conceived when the team showed Belgian author Joost Vandecasteele some of the early artwork. Struck by the beauty of the art style, he felt like injecting a story of oozing darkness beneath the cute surface. They started spitballing ideas and soon agreed to create a beautiful game about terrible things.
The Almost Gone is a mysterious exploration puzzle game about a girl that’s trapped between life and death. Players are invited to explore a beautiful world that’s born out of the memories and trauma of the invisible player character. With every twist and turn (sometimes literally, as you’ll rotate the dioramas to delve into the narrative, find clues, and solve puzzles) you’ll learn more about the turbulent history of your family and, ultimately, yourself.
A true passion project for Happy Volcano, the development of The Almost Gone was mainly fueled by grants and commercial work. Still, the on-again off-again development didn’t stop the game from turning a lot of heads at events. But even though it made waves everywhere it went, the team decided on a radical revision halfway through production.
A bold choice that was made for the better, as the final product shows a lot more coherence between important narrative beats and the solution of a riddle. Puzzles have a lot of variation and walk a fine line between too obtuse and too easy, while the narrative successfully draws you into the world and creates an eery atmosphere. The story tackles a lot of heavy subjects such as child abuse and mental illness, but approaches these themes with enough subtlety as to not hit players over the head with it.
Don’t believe us? Here’s what some other people already had to say about the game. “Minimalist ingenuity” (Focus Knack), “heavy home-grown stuff” (Het Nieuwsblad) and “beautiful in its simplicity” (The Digital Fix) are just some of the ways people are talking about the game. Must be nice to hear after all these years.
The Almost Gone is out today on Steam (pc, Mac), Nintendo Switch and mobile (iOS and Android). Let’s have a big round of applause for the author and developers. Here’s hoping this game gets all the praise it deserves.