There aren’t many video game studios in Italy, so it was interesting for me to see what this game from Lunar Great Wall Studios was like. Based in Milan, the studio only opened its doors in 2016, and Another Sight is its first game. Released originally for PC in 2018, the Switch port arrives this week. It’s a 2.5D exploration and puzzle game with a twist and there is much to recommend here, with the game alternating between beautiful, haunting, and frustrating.
Players take control of Kit, a lost teenager in an alternate version of Victorian London, and Hodge, a cat that she befriends. After Kit falls through a hole in the underground she finds herself unable to see, and the two must work together to find Kit’s father. As the pair explore things become more abstract and fantastical, giving the game an Alice in Wonderland feel. I’m sure Alice was a clear inspiration, as evidenced by Kit’s blonde hair, blue dress and ginger cat companion. Other inspirations are signposted more clearly, in the form of the art of Claude Monet or the books of Jules Verne. The creators have also named Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere as an inspiration, a 90s TV series and novel adaptation about a man who finds himself in the “London Below”. The relationship between Kit and Hodge is the centre of the game, and if you allow yourself to invest in it the game can have a strong emotional impact.
The settings for the game look beautiful, with a hand drawn art style that comes across well in both docked and handheld modes. There is a real range of locations throughout the game, from sewers to ruined cities to laboratories to underwater. On their journey Kit and Hodge come across famous figures of the time, who can also inform the look of areas, such as Monet painting an impressionist garden into reality. The soundtrack is also a highlight, alternating between grand orchestral movements and quieter mood pieces, as is the voice acting. The actress playing Kit has spot-on delivery throughout, believable and naturalistic, and the (albeit limited) dialogue from other characters is great as well. The visuals, the soundtrack and the vocals all combine into a perfectly presented gaming package.
The developers have certainly put a lot of work into how Kit’s blindness impacts the gameplay. Normally you can only see a small area around her, but this can be extended by reflected sound, which illuminates the area in the manner of Daredevil. Isolated sounds like the buzzing of a light and Hodge’s meow helps Kit see tiny areas, but sustained sound like a passing train or heavy machinery give you a much longer look. By contrast, Hodge can see perfectly well and it’s through him that you will get the best look at the surroundings. The downside to this system is of course that while playing as Kit you won’t get the best out of those stunning visuals.
To solve the puzzle elements of the game players can swap between Kit and Hodge as they please, and you’ll need to use both to get through the game. While Kit can operate levers and move larger objects, such as a minecart or a heavy door, Hodge can fit through small spaces, climb platforms with more ease, and press switches. Objects that you can interact with are highlighted purple, but only to the character that is able to use them. This leads to a small frustration since there were many moments when I was playing as Kit and walked straight past an object that Hodge could use, and vice versa. You’ll do quite a bit of backtracking for levers and switches that you’ve missed.
The backtracking also highlights one thing that will put a lot of people off that game, and that’s the slow pace. It makes sense when you think about it since a blind girl is not going to be running around the sewers full speed, but Kit’s slow movement speed can cause things to drag. I don’t necessarily mind a slow-paced game (I love a good walking simulator) and generally, it’s fine when you’re moving forward, but as mentioned when you start backtracking it gets very old very quickly.
All my criticisms so far have been relatively minor, but sadly there are some quite major negatives that bring the game down. The platforming is quite poor, with collision detection all over the place and controls like the jump button often unresponsive. You’ll tear your hair out at Hodge’s inability to make jumps and grab onto things, and you’ll witness the pair falling to their deaths on more than one occasion. Likewise, stealth sections are incredibly frustrating. We all have a laugh about enemies with limited fields of vision, but Another Sight’s guards are the exact opposite, seemingly able to see in every direction at once. Hodge’s meow is supposed to be used to distract the guards, but there are some major problems with the design of this. Often the guards will not notice the meow at all, or they will simply look in Hodge’s direction, which is no help at all. At best they will move a few steps towards Hodge, and you’ll have to repeat the process to get them to move far enough. The stealth sections would have been better served by a Little Nightmares style patrol route and timing system, rather than a distraction mechanic that doesn’t work properly.
Overall, Another Sight is a strong first effort from Lunar Great Wall Studios. They’ve crafted a beautiful world and, if you invest in it, a moving narrative about a special relationship. The dual characters and their differing abilities are also well-handled, in particular, Kit’s blindness. It’s definitely not without its flaws though. The platforming and stealth elements are a distraction at best and maddening at worst, and I think the game would have been better served by removing these entirely. Without those, you have a beautiful and haunting exploration game, which uses its protagonist’s blindness to great effect. A lot of your enjoyment of the game is going to hinge on whether you can overlook those frustrations, and appreciate the scenery and the soundtrack. The slow pace of gameplay can help with that, but I appreciate the pacing may be a further frustration for some. For my part I applaud the ambition and much of the end result; I will certainly look forward to what the studio might do in the future.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*