Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery is the latest flatscreen game to make the jump to Virtual Reality. This one sort of surprised me, as from what I took when looking into the original game that released a little over two-years ago, it seemed like a odd game to make this jump.
The story is told from the perspective of an aspiring artist, who is on the cusp of finishing the final piece for their gallery submission. Over her time finishing this piece of art, her elderly neighbor who is also a painter and his cat get her attention. This is all I can really say without spoiling the experiences narrative, but it is one that will keep your attention throughout your time playing.
I am not sure if I would call Behind the Frame a game, and more of an interactive experience that has the story at the forefront of what it offers.
You will start by being placed in front of an canvas that is devoid of colour, and a paint brush with yellow paint. After you have added the yellow paint, you will be in an apartment completing your daily routine of putting on music, making breakfast and a coffee and sending off an email to a gallery.
One thing you soon come to notice is you are missing all of the other colours on your palette, this is were the light puzzle elements come in. As you will need to complete puzzles that are placed around apartment, some simple and some that take a bit more thinking. Figuring these out will help you find the other colours you need to complete your work.
Outside of this you will also be adding to a journal, that will see you doing sketches, fitting parts of pictures together and using what is there for puzzles when required. Where they do mix it up a little in regards to puzzles, it far to often relates around your normal day routine.
The painting element of the game works well, working more like paint-by-numbers than anything, as you will be painting them to match the concept sketches. It seems very accurate and responsive, but these are very brief parts of the experience, with finding the colours being the main element of Behind the Frame’s gameplay.
Between each bit of painting and some puzzle solving the game does break away to cut-scenes. Which are mainly shown in a large window rather than placing you in them. Where this can break any immersion, I can fully understand why this approach was taken, as I feel placing you in a 2D Studio Ghibli inspired cut-scene just wouldn’t work.
Where the mix of puzzles and being in the apartment does make use of VR, it just doesn’t seem implemented all that well. With the point-and-click element for the games original release still being evident, as you will be pointing at objects with a laser pointer to get descriptions. Then when doing actions like cracking a egg for your breakfast, you will get a silhouette of where to place the item and then the action is completed – it just seemed like a massive missed opportunity not letting you complete these actions, as like the cut-scenes it breaks the immersion quickly.
As aforementioned it does cut to movies playing in a window for the cut-scenes, which are Studio Ghibli inspired in style, so these look great and are all animated really well.
Outside of these flat cut-scenes when exploring the apartment, its seems like a mix between real life and a painting. Which leads to the textures feeling and looking low resolution, which stands out a lot more on PSVR2, and it seems like its just been a direct port of the Quest version, rather than seeing any improvements for the more capable hardware. Which is a shame as the style could look fantastic if done correctly for the PSVR2.
Unfortunately the audio is basic, with the environmental sounds being matched with light music that you activate via a cassette player. There is no spoken lines is the story, and sometimes this is represented with white text on a black screen like an old silent movie. The only spoken lines of audio is some noises like ‘aha‘ and ‘mmm‘ when doing something correct or wrong.
With the jump to Virtual Reality, the game has not seen many comfort options included. The game can only be played standing, I tried seated to see if it was a plausible option, but it wasn’t a comfortable experience. Where it does offer smooth locomotion or teleport, it does only come with snap-turning.
The game took me little over and hour to complete, and I feel once you have done it many people will find hard to return and play it again. With the only reason for someone to return if they are looking to get the platinum trophy the game offers.
REVIEWED USING PLAYSTATION VR 2
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a review code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a press code does not affect my judgment of the product.
Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery VR tells a compelling story without the need of any spoken narrative. Unfortunately the implantation and use of VR seems to be more of a negative than a positive, when it comes to the experience. With mixed visuals when moving into a 3D space and some slight interaction issues it comes across a little disappointing. Having purchased the flatscreen game to compare, at this moment in time the original is the best way to play it – and if I was reviewing this version it would come highly recommended.
Release Date: September 14th 2023
Developer: Akupara Games
Publisher: Akupara Games
Price: US $19.99 / CA $26.99 / €19,99 / £15.99