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REVIEW: ‘Behind the Frame’ will make you feel like you’ve stepped inside a Studio Ghibli film

By Kara Santos Published Sep 06, 2021 11:16 am

Watching a Studio Ghibli film for the first time always offers a magical experience.

Aside from the breathtaking landscapes and whimsical creatures in the fantasy worlds woven by Hayao Miyazaki, it’s the quiet little moments and heartfelt story that make Ghibli films feel more personal and relatable. 

Simple moments like waiting at a bus stop in the rain, sitting down to sketch in a flower field, or even the act of preparing a meal all take on a whole otherwordly experience when enjoyed in hand-painted animation.

For those who want to feel what it's like to be a character in a Ghibli film, the puzzle game Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery may be right up your alley. 

Behind the Frame is a brand new game released last month that combines escape room mechanics with a lovely little interactive story experience in the hand-painted art style reminiscent of Miyazaki visuals. 

Created by indie Taiwan-based developer Silver Lining Studio, the short, interactive-fiction game tells a story of an aspiring artist working on her last art piece before submitting it to a gallery. The refreshing visuals go hand-in-hand with a heartfelt story. Plus, there's a cat in the game, which is always a plus. 

You don’t have to be an avid gamer or own the latest console to enjoy this game. The relaxing game can be tackled at any pace and can be fully completed in just an hour or so on PC or mobile devices. 

Behind the Frame is currently available for Android and iOS as well as Mac and Windows PC devices via Steam. I played it on an iPad, and found that using a stylus on a touchscreen made painting and sketching feel very satisfying.

The game immerses players in a panoramic world inspired by Studio Ghibli visuals, filled with vivid colors, beautiful hand-animated visuals, and a smooth, easy-listening soundtrack. 

Behind the Frame’s premise is very simple. As an artist, you have to hunt for missing colors to bring your paintings to life. The interactive puzzles scattered around the cozy artist’s studio are similar to point-and-click escape room games, but with a more whimsical touch. 

On paper, the narrative-driven puzzle game is all about collecting, fixing, painting and enjoying the scenery. The game will have you painting, sketching, and retouching your artwork to complete your masterpiece while completing other routine tasks.

There’s no time pressure or enemies to deal with, but just little clues left around the room which help you figure out what to do as you go about your day. Relaxing tasks include preparing yourself some breakfast and enjoying a cup of coffee. 

But of course, there’s more to it than that and every painting unravels memories leading to a larger story that’s best experienced for yourself.

None of the puzzles are too difficult to leave you feeling frustrated or stressed out. While there are parts of the game mid-way that can feel somewhat unsettling, overall, the game feels very refreshing, uplifting and calming. The aesthetically stunning visuals and background music just adds to the whole charming experience.

Admittedly, the full game is pretty short with just six chapters, but somehow the pace feels just right.

The Ghibli-like style and animation and evocative story whisks you away to another world and you won’t want to leave without seeing the whole thing through. The emotional connection I felt to the game was similar to the feeling of watching The Tale of Princess Kaguya for the first time or completing indie classics like Journey and Flower

Behind the Frame is a beautifully-crafted game about savoring life’s little moments that will resonate well with audiences during these pandemic times. The experience is both delightful and bittersweet. It's the type of game that you’ll want to turn to on a rainy afternoon or a weekend where you’re stuck indoors or are feeling particularly melancholic.

Behind the Frame is currently available for mobile devices via the App Store and Google Play Store, as well as Mac and Windows PC via Steam. Mobile versions cost $4.99 (roughly Php 248), while PC versions cost $8.99 (Php 448) as of this writing.

(Images via Silver Linings Studio)