If you played the excellent Neon White recently and were surprised to learn it was published by Annapurna Interactive, brace yourself to be completely unsurprised with this one: they don’t come much more Annapurna-y than this. Hindsight is a story that plays out through gentle interactions, with no complex objectives or skill challenges, and it’s beautifully presented and brimming with nostalgic charm.
The game presents a series of static 3D scenes from the narrator’s life, within which you can turn the camera to find interactive elements. The locations are everyday settings – rooms of a home, a restaurant, the seaside – and the protagonist is present in all of them, experiencing or reflecting on events. The interactive parts may be further apparitions of the protagonist, which you select to move the camera over to them, or even objects that glint to signal their significance.
The stand-out mechanic at play, however, is the way you dive into objects to reveal the memories associated with them. This works by moving the camera around the object until it starts to fade to just an outline, a remembered scene hazily coming into view within it. When you find the right spot, the new scene shines into full colour and you can click through to explore it. The effect is compelling, generating a subtle intensity and slight discordance as these memories overwhelm the present. Chaining these memory dives together is engrossing, so much so that re-emerging into the world is stark and sobering.
And that setting you re-emerge into is a melancholic one, where the protagonist’s mother has passed away and you follow her to sort through the effects in the old family home. The story reflects on a lifetime of memories, centring on the death of a parent and delving into the narrator’s childhood. It avoids straightforward schmaltz, facing up to the complex emotions when a parent-child relationship hasn’t been a storybook one. It’s told with sympathy for all sides and arrives at a conclusion that will linger.
The only real distractions from all this are a few elusive interactive elements which left us spinning the scene round and round for a minute. There were some rare stutters moving into some scenes, but infrequent enough not to completely undermine the solidity of the experience.
A final, crucial point to bear in mind is that Hindsight is a touchscreen game. Moving the camera, lining up the new scenes, wiping windows and unzipping tents all work beautifully on the touchscreen, while using the thumb stick to move a pointer over these drastically breaks the immersion. The game is also releasing on iOS and Windows. You can see why it hasn’t been aimed at platforms without mouse or touch control. (Having said that, we did reach for the right stick once or twice for quicker camera movements, so perhaps Switch is the ideal place to play.)
Hindsight does what it does with technical and artistic aplomb. The story is eloquent, mature and moving, and the core mechanic of diving into objects creates perfect madeleine moments that boost the experience beyond many other story games. It only asks for a few hours of your time and repays the investment generously.