Looking back to look ahead
I’ve played plenty of games that have moved me emotionally, but very few pushed me to reassess my life. When I stop and think about it, I can come up with three games that made me want to live differently. Hindsight is one of those games.
Annapurna Interactive is known for supporting and publishing games that might not fit the traditional game mold, but they’re worthy experiences nonetheless. Their lineup is a who’s who of unique titles, some of which have been my favorite releases in recent years. When they revealed a collaboration with Team Hindsight and Joel McDonald (Prune) for Hindsight, it seemed like another match made in heaven. Everything from the trailer to the game synopsis seemed Annapurna through and through, and that certainly ended up being the case.
Hindsight definitely doesn’t fit into a traditional game genre, and instead carves its own path. It’s a narrative experience that leads you through the life of a woman, and you get to revisit a number of her formative moments throughout. You’ll bear witness to little memories of her favorite things, traumatic events, and everything in-between. It’s engaging, sullen, depressing, exciting and many other things, all of which amounted to a journey I’ll never forget.
Just to be perfectly clear, Hindsight isn’t a game for everyone. Truthfully, I think some people will take umbrage with Hindsight being called a ‘game’ in general. I am not of that mindset, but I do believe people should know what they’re in store for when picking up something like Hindsight. The game’s purpose is to tell a story. Outside of camera controls and a point of interest icon, traditional game mechanics are nowhere to be seen. Again, this is not meant as a knock against Hindsight in any way, shape or form. I’m simply stating it as a fact for informative purposes.
For those up for the journey, Hindsight takes you down a path filled with emotions. Throughout the game’s two hours (give or take), I had moments that filled me with despair, made me smile, brought tears to my eyes, and so much more. Just as with any great movie, Hindsight takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, albeit much more personal and intricate than any film could hope to achieve. This is through the way you participate in and explore the life of Hindsight’s main character.
In order to traverse the story of Hindsight, you travel through a woman’s life by way of objects. These items, be it a lamp, clock, plant, ect., will connect you to specific moments in the woman’s history. This is an incredibly smart way to bring you through the woman’s life, as every human has objects that remind them of a certain point in time. I know my house is filled with random clutter that brings a flood of memories rushing back when I catch a glance. Using this as the main mechanic for traveling through another person’s life makes the entire experience resonate that much more.
The deftness through which this mechanic is handled goes even deeper, as you have to rotate the camera to a certain viewpoint in order to unlock a memory. This is an incredibly clever way of handling the process, as again, it ties into real-life. Sometimes all it takes is a shift in your own perspective to see things in a completely different way. In Hindsight, you twist and turn your virtual head around these items in order to see what they’re trying to say to you. It’s such a simple idea, yet such a mesmerizing one.
Further still, throughout the story of Hindsight you’ll see how these items tell one story at the start of the game, but evolve into something else as the tale unwinds. For example early moments in the game will have you associate negative feelings with certain items, but you’ll end up feeling the complete opposite by the time the credits roll. Of course, Hindsight is much more nuanced than that. While there are certainly items that’ll have your thoughts shifting from bad to good, there are plenty others that add varying degrees color and perspective to a given situation. Most of the time, you’ll find that no moment is black or white, and instead is a complex tapestry.
Hindsight absolutely goes to town with this approach, utilizing it to the fullest extent. The way the camera shifts and item focuses tie into the story is some of the most brilliant storytelling I’ve come across in any game. There are so many metaphors and neat touches that marry gameplay and story together that it boggles my mind. I was constantly impressed with the incredible amount of attention and detail implemented to make this such a richly woven yarn.
Playing Hindsight honestly made me a bit embarrassed with how I’ve handled certain situations in my life. If anything, Hindsight drives home the point that everything isn’t always how it seems, and as we open our minds and grow in years, we can start to see things completely differently. I’m not talking about stances on politics or anything of that ilk, but instead, connections with the people in our lives and how we feel about them. I have come away from the experience wanting to be a more compassionate and understanding person. Someone who gives people a chance to explain who they are…someone who wants to learn about friends and family in a deeper way.
Hindsight is a game that lives and dies by its story, and the story told here is multifaceted and unbelievably worthy of your time. This is one of the games I’m going to crow on and on about with friends for years to come. Again, I fully recognize that this type of title isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no chance in hell I’ll let that stop me from recommending it to everyone I can.
For those open to games outside the norm and experiences that beg you to explore who you are, Hindsight is an absolutely must-play.