Thoughts on Unwording (Steam Next Fest 2022 Demo)

Unlike other demos, where I’ve heard of the game in question, Unwording came as a surprise. Frostwood Interactive, also responsible for Rainswept and Forgotten Fields, announced a surprise new game, with a demo available during Steam Next Fest. Already familiar with this developer’s work, I found it appropriate to once again dive back in and see what’s in store.

Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.

Game Summary

Unwording is a narrative puzzle game about happiness, gratitude, and the power of our thoughts. Use a combination of exploration and word puzzle gameplay to reshape reality and guide Tom through the course of three painful but transformative days of his life.

Steam page

The Good

From what I managed to get within the demo, there isn’t too much here to really grasp. Of all the games I tried demos for, this probably finishes second for “least amount of content.” Not to insinuate this makes it worse, but it makes it harder to analyze what’s good or bad outside of the bare essentials.

A majority of the demo involves a simple puzzle mechanic. Take things present within the environment and swap them with thoughts of pessimism. Say you see a prompt for “Send a letter”; you will be tasked to swap the words around to form something like “They won’t write back.” Dealing with the darkened thoughts that swirl within our psyches on a daily basis, trying to make sense of everything.

Humble beginnings.

This emotional foundation is reminiscent of the developer’s other works. They’re fond of evoking a strong sense of self-reflection in all forms, whether positive or negative, and I liked the manner in which it was incorporated here. These puzzles, while simple in nature, provide motivation for progression and insight into this character’s (Tom) mindset.

In a surprise (unless you checked the screenshots, none of which I own in this article) twist, the art style changes after a certain point. This was neat to discover initially, setting a precedent that this has surprises in store around each corner. Although for as short as this demo is, outside of the time it may take to solve some of these puzzles, it was fairly short-lived.

The Bad

Unfortunately, a somewhat regular occurrence for this developer’s games, especially early on, is the presence of bugs. Unwording continues this trend—my experience with the demo was cut short due to a random, game-breaking bug.

It happened with these graphics.

Shortly after the graphics changed to a rigid 3D, I managed to walk out of the environment. I slipped out of a crack in the wall and fell into a bottomless void. I could still walk around, but Tom had left the plane of existence. I was stuck. At that point, I didn’t bother trying to restart (this was directly after glitching out in Wayward Strand).

Apart from the unfortunately common technical issues, the only thing I would find irritating about the gameplay puzzles are how slowly they are switched around. When on the puzzle screen, you can take these cube (or cube-like) pieces with letters and flip them around like a rubik’s cube to get new letters to craft cryptic messages necessary to progress. Only thing is that they flip entirely too slowly. Takes a solid second for each turn—would love if that was cut in half (or more).

Any additional criticisms are mostly moot due to the relatively small content available in the game’s demo. A majority of what I encountered was simply flipping cubes around and walking around in a neatly drawn world. Nothing left to say.

Can you guess what that will spell out?

Conclusion

Though the content is relatively minor, there’s potential here for something intriguing. The already depressive atmosphere of the game is consistent with the developer’s past experience with themes of emotional expression. That, more than anything, will make this worth keeping an eye on. I just sincerely hope they get those bugs taken care of by the point of full release…

Unwording has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)

If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.

Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.

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