Viewfinder is straight up a GOTY contender in my book. It’s so creative, so mind-blowing and beautiful that I had a massive smile on my face all throughout playing it.
This is what gaming should do. It should make you happy. It should challenge you, not in a punishing way, but in a “think outside the box” kind of way. Viewfinder excels at that with it’s insanely creative gameplay.
While there’s a story in the game and there’s a pretty great “wow” moment early on, in all honesty I didn’t really care all that much about it to follow what was happening. Throughout all the levels you can find diary entries, post-it notes, drawings and other visual storytelling elements plus audio recordings that give more details about what has happened, what and why you are doing what you are doing, but again, it didn’t really capture me. Also I just wanted to get right into the next exquisite puzzle.
The puzzles in Viewfinder are absolutely excellent and kinda unique as I haven’t really seen them done in any other games before well, apart from one or two that is. Trying to explain how the puzzles work and the mind-blowing mechanics that you use to solve them is well, very puzzling, pun intended. I mean I guess the best way to understand what you can expect from the game is in its title, Viewfinder.
All the puzzles play with your perspective or perception and they evolve in surprising directions that keep you challenged with every new puzzle you encounter. The goal of every level is to find the teleporter, use it and move on to the next level. Now where this teleporter is, how to reach it and how to activate it, that’s what you have to solve. This next part will sound kinda confusing, but please bear with me. Photos, paintings, sketches, screenshots and posters that you find in a level, can be placed in the world to become a fabric of its reality, reshaping the environment around you. Weird, right?
Just imagine this: You are in a level and you see the teleporter on top of a ledge that you cannot reach in any way. After you check what else the level has to offer, you find a photo of a wall. Now you have a ledge you cannot climb and the photo of a wall. So you take that photo out, rotate it by 45 degrees so that it looks like an incline and well, you just place it inside the level. Boom, you can now climb this inclined wall, reach the teleporter and move on.
This is one of the most basic and early puzzles in Viewfinder, use a picture, drawing, photo of something and use it as a bridge, ladder, something to reach another place. But as you progress through the levels, new puzzles and mechanics are introduced that keep things fresh and challenging until the end. Later in the game photocopiers are introduced where you can make duplicates of any photos you have and you also get access to a camera that you can use to take photos of the level itself and use that to your benefit. Like you can snap a photo of an entire building, rotate that photo by 180 degrees, place it in the level so you can enter it.
One of the coolest things is that when you place a photo in your reality that photo replaces and kinda cuts or clips the reality. So if there’s railing that is blocking an entry, you can place a photo to cut through it… I know, I know it sounds weird, but it makes sense if you watch any gameplay or play the demo. I can talk for literally hours, trying to explain how insanely creative the puzzles and mechanics are, but it’s kinda impossible to explain in a way that makes sense. Believe me, I want to talk to you about a puzzle that features a watermelon and how my mind was absolutely blown by the solution, but without you playing the game, it would read like a bunch of nonsense.
Another thing about Viewfinder that I found cool was the lack of a fail state. If you fall off the map, if you place a photo in the wrong place or destroy a teleporter, you can just rewind time to a moment, kinda like a checkpoint, before you messed up and you pick up from there. This opens up a lot of experimentation, cause the solution of the puzzle is not obvious most of the times, I would even say that some of my solutions kinda broke the game, like I shouldn’t have been able to do what I did and yet, I did it. It’s so satisfying when you pull off something like that as you don’t feel constrained by “game design”.
Viewfinder needs to be celebrated as one of the freshest, coolest and mind-blowing puzzle games that I’ve ever played. Buy this game as you probably have never played anything like it before. Thanks for reading!