Beautiful puzzle games with brief, Kleenex-required storytelling seem to be everywhere these days. Somehow they all find their way into my gaming library one way or another. This time around, it’s the Switch version of Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery. It’s the story of two aspiring artists and the threads that connect them.
Entranced by Behind the Frame‘s strong Studio Ghibli inspirations, I wondered if the game’s trailer was truly representative of the game itself. Just a few minutes in and my jaw dropped. The transition from anime scenes to the interior of our artist’s apartment is flawless. Every move has a real sense of living inside a Miyazaki masterpiece. From the soft color palette to the in-game artwork our mysterious woman is creating, it reinforces the fact that video games are indeed art.
Starting off with just a couple of paints for our canvas, we need to find the missing colors in order to finish our pieces. Notes and clues are hidden inside our room. Thanks to the fluid 360 degree movement in the apartment, there’s none of that push button to move nonsense that breaks the immersion. And when you do step into the kitchen to make eggs and toast for the third time or sit down to paint, it’s not jarring. The same goes for the switch back to cutscenes from gameplay in Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery. I don’t know that I’ve played a game that moved so well between video and gameplay in a long time.
Most of the puzzles you’re going to encounter in Behind the Frame require a keen eye and memory. But you don’t need to worry too much; clues are readily available to reference from your notebook. Letters, sketches, and other notes that you have read all end up in here. The paintings are my favorite puzzles. Probably due to the way my unattractive blobs of paint magically transform into beautiful finished pieces. Some puzzles like the sunflower one above have a couple of steps. Once you locate all of the scraps and put the sketch back together, it reveals the answer to a locked box in your room.
I dare say that not playing Behind the Frame until now has been a blessing in disguise for two reasons. First being that with the Nintendo Switch version, you can use the touchscreen to paint, sketch, and interact with items around the apartment. Sketching and writing is more of a rubbing-type situation but it feels much more satisfying than using an analog stick. Secondly, the console release also marked a free chapter update for the game on all platforms. Complete game experiences are ultimately a time and stress-saver in my book.
Behind the Frame is such a gorgeous experience, one that if you have a few hours and are looking for a new puzzle game is well worth it.
Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery is available now for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and mobile devices.