The subjective nature of art allows for several perspectives. One can be transported through art to another place and time as it reveals its story, sometimes intended to provoke self reflection, other times representing a reflection of the artist’s own experience. The story explored in Behind the Frame is that of a young artist as she works on the final piece of her application to a New York Gallery. As she works she is puzzled by the strange behaviour of her neighbour, a fellow artist who ignores her despite the window they share. Some peculiar happenings lead her to explore the meaning behind both of their artistry and the links between their worlds.
The narrative and its presentation are the core of what makes Behind the Frame worth experiencing. It is told across six short chapters through cinematics and the internal monologue of the protagonist. The way the narrative is presented relies on few words, preferring to use visuals and music to convey the emotion of the scene. The small cinematics in the story are of the highest quality and would not look out of place next to the best animated films, making it easy to throw out the term ’Ghibli-esque’ to describe their simple beauty. Truly much better than they had any right to be considering the otherwise small scope of the game. The music also sets Behind the Frame apart from other pieces of interactive fiction, with each chapter’s mood set by the melody emanating from a small cassette player in the apartment.
The interaction in this piece of interactive fiction is largely done through light puzzling and painting. Simple in nature, the puzzles serve to further the narrative and help unravel the mystery behind the other artist, rather than putting up roadblocks to be grappled with. The puzzles in the game are intuitive but also quite easy, most never needing more than a couple of thoughts to solve. They come in a few different varieties and have you finding the pieces of torn pictures, finding the discrepancies between two art pieces or completing the unfinished piece or painting and sketching what’s happening through the window. The painting and sketching aspects of the game are nice little interludes as you essentially fill in the page with your brush and pencil. Again an activity that is a means to an end as skill and precision are not required, but it’s still nice seeing your sketches come alive on the page.
I played through the game on PC, but considering the ease of interactivity, Behind the Frame’s release on mobile devices also seems a good fit. Having completed the six chapters, an ideal playthrough actually seems closer to playing on a tablet in a comfortable position, with headphones of course, as the music is core to the experience.
Behind the Frame is a subtle and evocative tale that explores the lives of two artists, their relationship and what inspires them to create. The short experience is made memorable by the high-quality animations and the mood setting melodies. Puzzles may be easy, but it’s clear they are intended to be vectors to experience the story, rather than hindrances. A perfect game to unwind with your drink of choice and get lost in.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Silver Lining Studio
- Akupara Games
- PC / iOS / Android
- August 25, 2021