Retrospective review: the persistence of memory


The new narrative exploration game Hindsight takes players into the memories of a woman named Mary to tell a story about perspective, escape from reality and the contrast between beauty and the harsh reality of nature. Joel McDonald is working on the game, and it is published by Annapurna Interactive, known for releasing many critically acclaimed indie games. Screen Rant attended a special preview event dedicated to Hindsight, where the developers introduced the audience to the chapter of the game and answered questions about the upcoming game.

Hindsight is very different from developer Joel McDonald’s previous game, the meditative gardening game Prune, which focuses on plot and research. In the game, the main character Mary deals with the consequences of her mother’s death by sorting through objects in her childhood home. Mary talks about the game throughout the game, having a one-sided conversation with her mother as she reflects on her life. Mary’s apartment serves as a kind of center of the game between chapters, where players can reflect on the events of the last chapter together with Mary.

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The plot gameplay in Hindsight is based on the concept of holes that appear when Mary walks around her childhood home, and mentally transport her to the past. Things like a flower or raindrops can serve as holes if you look at them or interact with them in a certain way — for example, a user can drag raindrops together or manipulate clouds in the sky to discover a new memory. These memories show moments with Mary’s mother, from infancy to today. As the players progress, Mary’s narrative will guide them through flashbacks as she seeks the closure she cannot get about her relationship with her mother.

Once in a moment from Mary’s past, users will discover new memory holes, moving on top of each other and transforming as players continue to explore her mind. Eventually, players will return to the present, where they can continue to explore and find new apertures. Looking back, searching for apertures seems natural, giving players subtle visual or audio cues, but not eye-catching. The developers noted that the game rewards the player for exploration and that there are probably some holes that most will not find during the passage without a lot of attention to detail. The game is designed to be played at the player’s own pace — “Looking into the Past” does not impose any time limits, and there are even moments designed to allow players to take a little break after encountering particularly difficult topics.

Reflection and perspective are key elements of Looking into the past, as players, along with Mary, question the validity of memory. Do memories change as people get older and are the emotions associated with them affected? The main, poetically appropriate part of the gameplay is that players literally look at the memory apertures from different points of view in order to move forward. After each chapter, players can choose one souvenir from their journey to take with them, forming a small in-game collection of connections to the past based on what players consider most important.

Looking into the past is inherently very philosophical, and during the preview, the developers discussed how the game is trying to approach key topics in a unique way. Nature permeates Mary’s story in many forms, with things like memories of family hikes and a frequently occurring hole of scattered leaves. Although nature is often a beautiful part of Maria’s memories, it is also necessary to resist the harsher elements of nature, since death is an inevitable part of nature. Control and escapism also play an important role in the story, as it explores how the escape felt in these dreams of the past distracts from the truth of real life, which Mary cannot control. Such details combine to create a truly unique experience that has the potential to become one of the deepest in-game narratives seen in a long time in the genre of story games.

Hindsight looks like a unique narrative experience through the use of interactive holes that will allow players to interact with the story in a meaningful and unique way. Although no release date has been announced for the game at this time, more details about the title may be revealed at the upcoming Annapurna Expo on July 28. As players explore Mary’s past, a “Look into the Past” will force them to face the nature of memory through a contemplative story. about what it means to be alive.