Take a peek behind the camera in our Viewfinder review!
They say a picture is worth 1000 words, well in Viewfinder it’s worth a hell of a lot more than that. This mind-bending puzzle game is a first time outing for SOS Studios that throws physics out the window.
I love the smell of puzzles in the morning!
Sad Owl Studios is a Scottish based developer which began in 2021 and in that short time, they have developed this journey into a warped reality. Armed with only some photos, a camera, and your wit, does this game leave a watermark behind or does it come out as a negative? Find out in our Viewfinder review!
Viewfinder Review – Story
The tale of this thought-provoking game is as much a mystery worth finding out for yourself as all the puzzles are. For that reason, it’s recommended to go into Viewfinder knowing as little as possible since the main set up for the story is almost half of the 5 – 6 hour game. Therefore, skip this part if you want to keep it a surprise or read on if you care not for spoilers.
Beware spoilers ahead!
You begin in an abstract world with a voice guiding you towards the way out. In Viewfinder, the passages to and from each level materialises as a small teleporter. Not long after the beginning, you discover you are a scientist in a virtual world. It was created long ago by another team of researchers trying to combat climate change and ironically you are looking for their solution.
One of the four hub worlds.
As the outside has now become a wasteland, this is one of your last-ditch efforts to restore the Earth. Most of this story is told through commentary of your assistant, Jessie, who is a faceless character behind a glass panel. Along the way, you meet an AI in the form of a cat, aptly named Cait. He guides you and tells you the history of this hidden virtual world.
Can someone turn the heater down?
Throughout your journey through this imagined reality, you must work out what the creators had built and if it could solve the current weather crisis. As there are four team members, you must traverse four hub worlds that include between 10 – 20 puzzles, learning about each individual person as you go. Progressing through these levels, leaves clues to the whereabouts of this impossible machine.
Viewfinder Review – Gameplay
In basically every puzzle game the objective is to simply complete puzzles without the gameplay altering a great deal. Viewfinder changes this up slightly, as your surroundings become your tools and your solutions. You start by just using photos or drawings you find in each level. These can be rotated to suit your needs, for example, a photo of a wall can become a ramp to a higher level.
Take or find photos and use them to solve puzzles!
Each hub world you enter reveals additional elements to up the ante and ensures you are kept on your toes. A lot of thinking outside the box is required in some areas but nothing really took longer than 10 minutes to complete. The second area gives you a camera so you can hunt down the required photo opportunity to finish the puzzle.
Now you’re thinking with
Other additional equipment includes, broken portraits to line up, a photocopy machine, perspective challenges and even selfies. If one solution is alluding you for a particularly long time, the game will offer to give you a hint to help you progress but so long as your brain is turned on you shouldn’t have too many issues.
Viewfinder Review – Visuals
Although this isn’t a photo realistic game, the general aesthetic mixes quite well with the outrageous world you traverse. Much of the landscapes are super pleasing and almost relaxing to stroll through as you casually look for your puzzles required answer.
Now this is 3D painting.
Some of the photos and paintings you find strewn amongst the levels can have great art styles. This part of the game didn’t last long but walking from a cartoon dessert, to a childs drawing of a house and even a Zelda stylised map, was very innovative.
No, this isn’t Minecraft.
Another great addition to Viewfinder is the ability to use filters on your instant camera. These can be changed any time in the hub world and some are only available after meeting certain criteria. Choose from black & white, sepia or even give your puzzle solution a lovely watermelon appearance.
Viewfinder Review – Audio
With the relatively short completion time, there isn’t a huge chance for the game to unleash a great soundtrack. In saying this the background music is quite tranquil and helps to figure out your current predicament. Some great moments include when you enter certain photo landscapes, like a wild west type drawing, it will play western music to suit.
Not sure if the cat is stuck or I am?
As for the voice acting, you mostly listen to voice recordings of the four founders and their different thoughts and processes for what they were dealing with at the time. Some of these aren’t fantastic, but the mystery of the story keeps you listening and playing any messages you come across.
The classic Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade bridge trick.
What Else? – Side Quests, Post-Game, Trophies
There is plenty to discover aside from completing the main story puzzles. Each world has its own set of collectables and a few optional challenge levels. These are slightly harder than the rest of the game but are only required for 100% completion.
Can’t beat ramen and photography.
For trophy/achievement hunters there isn’t a whole lot more to do in order to obtain all accolades. Mostly a few unique tasks that are required, like make a battery fall on you or take 100 photos. Oh, and don’t forget to pet the cat…
You can pet an AI cat, instant win.
Puzzle games can be a hard nut to crack, too many and it becomes boring, too little and it’s not enough. Viewfinder seems to locate the perfect balance between quantity, quality and difficulty with an intriguing story to boot. If you are looking for a new head scratcher to sink your eye holes into, then this is it!
So, why should you play Viewfinder?
- Fantastic and innovative puzzles
- Interesting back story
- Doesn’t outstay its welcome
But why shouldn’t you play Viewfinder?
- Don’t like puzzles
- A little on the short side
- No extremely hard puzzles if that’s your idea of fun
A review code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our Viewfinder review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out another brilliant indie game from the same publisher in our Say NO! More review and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about Viewfinder.