Unwording is an adventure puzzle game that follows Tom, our lonely protagonist, and his journey from crippling cognitive distortion to cathartic self-realisation.
Tom wakes up on another mundane morning. In parallel with his 2D sketch form, the world feels flat and lifeless. He begrudgingly drags himself out of bed and gets ready to leave for work. It’s raining too – typically!
On his morning jaunt to work, Tom is bombarded with constant negative feelings about himself. The world around him being a constant reminder of the things he isn’t doing right. Each instance plays out like short word-based puzzles where you are given a neutral sentence about Tom’s experiences and you must rearrange the letters to decipher his true feelings about himself. A clever way of showing how his cognitive distortions are manifesting.
So he gets to work, as usual. Procrastinates, as usual. And goes home, as usual. Nothing short of ordinary for Tom. He goes to bed unaware of the change that is about to befall him.
In the morning, having left his window open, a small yellow bird flies in to Tom’s apartment. This inocuous animal ends up causing chaos for Tom, challenging his perceptions of the world around him. All in all, this changes the trajectory of Tom’s life forever – It was a bird’s wing chaos theory was talking about, right?
The art style in Unwording then unexpectedly becomes more three dimensional (officially 2.5D) which is a clever way to signify the transformation that is taking place for Tom. The puzzles also slightly change format, becoming a complex, multifaceted affair where you need to view letters from other perspectives to spell out particular words. There is another lesson in this for Tom; perhaps his initial preconceptions aren’t always correct.
Whilst these puzzles are more complex than the ones preceding them, they also become slightly more frustrating. This is mainly due to the words having to line up properly on a horizontal axis which in itself isn’t too difficult, but rotating using WASD on the keyboard is a lot more time consuming than it would be if it could be rotated with a mouse.
In the third phase, the word puzzles that we’ve become accustomed to are replaced with word input puzzles – similar to DOS commands – where you need to type in specific words for a desired outcome. There are no hints as to what words you need to type in but for the most part they are easy to guess and rely on common sense and the story so far in the Unwording universe.
The atmosphere changes during this last sequence. The sun is setting; there’s a peaceful warmth eminating and you get the feeling that Tom has finally made some peace with himself.
Unwording overall thoughts
Despite being a relatively simple puzzle game, Unwording is overflowing with heart and a lot of thought has been put into how individuals suffer with these kind of negative thought patterns. The resources feature is an appreciated addition, signposting players to relevant support if they feel they need it. There’s also a personal aspect here, as game dev Armaan Sandhu (Frostwood Interactive) writes about their inspiration for Unwording and their own journey dealing with similar issues.
On a personal level, Unwording resonates deeply. With what little it says with actual words, you simply need to scratch the surface and there’s a whole lot of personality underneath. Sometimes you have to have a little faith.