Unwording review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Frostwood Interactive
Developer: Frostwood Interactive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: Not Rated

Unwording is, as you might guess from its name, a puzzle game built around words. It?s broken into three parts, and it stands out by virtue of its middle part being one of the worst things I?ve ever experienced in gaming.

I?ll explain why in a moment. But to get there, you need to know how the rest of the game is played.

Unwording starts out as a flat, 2D game where the hero, Tom, looks at the world around him and sees nothing but the worst in everything. He wakes up and hates his life, he sees people with cars and babies and feels poor and alone, and he goes to work at a job he hates. In this section of the game, you?re given basic word puzzles to solve. You start with ?Wake up?, for example, and you have to play around with the letter blocks to turn them into ?I give up?. It?s a little annoying to spin the blocks around sometimes so that the letters are right side up, and the game is a little depressing during this stage, but it works.

By the end of Unwording, Tom is in a fully 3D world, and he?s learned how to see the good in things. Where before your word puzzles were constrained by space, in this section you have a lot more freedom to guess words. In some ways it feels like you have a little too much freedom as you have to guess how to phrase what the game is showing you, but again: Unwording works here, too.

Unfortunately, in between the 2D world and the 3D world is a 2.5D world where Unworking doesn?t work at all. This section starts off with a bird flying into Tom?s apartment, pooping on his phone, and forcing him to start looking at the world around him rather than wallowing online. While I appreciate the move to be less depressing, unfortunately everything about this middle section sucks.

For one thing, manoeuvring Tom around the 2.5D space is a massive headache. You can tell things have some depth, but you can?t quite tell where Tom is in relation to them, so you spend a lot of time walking him into walls and getting stuck there. The world may look nicer, but it?s a pain to get around.

Somehow, the word puzzles are even worse. The blocks of letters are suddenly 3D blocks that you spin around using your keyboard (or thumbsticks, if you?re trying to play on the Steam Deck), but to form the words you need to look at the letters at exactly the right angle, or else the game doesn?t pick it up. I spent excessive amounts of time trying to figure out how to get the game to recognize the word ?need?, for example, even when using hints showed that I had all the letters in the right place. Likewise, at one point I had to find the letter ?A?, and even when it was literally all I could see on the screen, the game still wouldn?t recognize it. As you can imagine, it was somewhere during this stage that I really began to loathe Unwording.

As I said, though, the opening and final thirds are mostly fine. If you can tough out the middle bit, the game might just be worth it. But that?s still a huge ask, and that part of the game is awful enough that I wouldn?t blame anyone for not wanting to give Unwording a chance.

Frostwood Interactive provided us with an Unwording PC code for review purposes.

Grade: C-