Viewfinder review for PC, PS5

Platform: PC
Also on: PS5
Publisher: Thunderful
Developer: Sad Owl Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I recently read a quote about criticism (it was about music criticism, specifically, but it applies to reviews of any kind) that said it’s a lot easier to explain why you hate something than to say what you love about something. That rings true for me as I try to write about Viewfinder, because 1) I absolutely adore this game, and 2) I’m having trouble putting into words exactly why I love it.

I mean, I can vaguely say why I like it. Viewfinder kind of reminds me of Portal – and not in the way that countless Portal-esque puzzle games do. Where all those games mimic Portal’s mechanics and don’t add much else to the equation, Viewfinder feels Portal-esque in the way that it creates a world governed by a particular set of rules, and you have to figure out those rules if you want to solve its puzzles.

Like I said: it’s hard for me to put into words exactly why I love it so much.

The central mechanic here is that you can use photographs and pictures to change the world around you. Need an extra battery to power up that entrance to the next level? Find a camera, take a picture of the first one, then set the picture down somewhere in the world around you – being sure to put it down somewhere you can reach it, and being careful not to destroy your exit in the process. Entrance facing the wrong direction, or in some unreachable place? Again, take a picture, and figure out how to set it rightside up.

In other words, Viewfinder doesn’t just ask you to think about your perspective of the world around you, it also gives you the power to use your perspective (and your pictures) to shape the world around you. It’s an interesting approach to puzzles, particularly when you take into account how much freedom that gives you – while there’s usually an obvious solution to every puzzle once you think about it, within each one there’s enough room to play around with the answer so that you can try to answer it however you want.

As a side note, as someone who’s always loved destroying things or terraforming the world around me in games (think Red Faction), Viewfinder even kind of appeals to that sensibility. It may not seem like Viewfinder fits into that genre, until you realize that literally every time you place a picture, you’re changing the layout of the level. It’s a pretty crazy approach to a game, but the way it works here absolutely pays off.

Honestly, I wish I could figure out how to fully put into words just what I love about Viewfinder, but, like I wrote up top, it’s difficult to not just point at it and say, “buy this amazing game!”, and then hope that’s enough. It really is a remarkable game, and in a year that’s been blessed with way more than its fair share of standout games, I’d put Viewfinder on the same level as any of them.

Thunderful provided us with a Viewfinder PC code for review purposes.

Grade: A+