Steam Puzzle Fest kicks off today, offering tons of discounts on all of your favourite puzzle games. Really, though, one of the best experiences you can have this Steam Puzzle Fest week is by downloading the free demo for upcoming puzzler Viewfinder. Developed by Sad Owl Studios, I had a sneaky peek at this at GDC last month and was properly blown away by it. It might look like just another Witness-like, but don’t be fooled. There are some real smart ideas in here, and I dare you not to go ‘OooOOOooooOOOooooh’ when you see the in-game photos you take come to life in all their full, 3D explorable glory.
As you can see in the trailer above, Viewfinder is all about perspective. For reasons, you possess a neat little polaroid camera whose photos let you transform the landscape around you wherever you plonk them down. You can then go into those photos as if they’re part of the level, and you’ll be slapping ’em down all over the place to solve puzzles, traverse its abstract landscapes and more over the course of the demo.
What I loved best about my time with Viewfinder, though, was how each photo’s individual art style was translated into an explorable, 3D space. Applying a picture of a watercolour painting, for example, will be transform the space into a gorgeous haze of fussy brushstrokes, letting you walk around it as if it were a proper location. There are also sketch drawings to oogle at, transporting you to scenes made up of beautiful cross-hatching pencil work, and even the odd 8-bit video game landscape to admire as well.
You can also rotate photos upside down, causing any objects in them to fall to the ground in front of you – a handy trick if you need to reach something that’s otherwise out of your jump range. It’s real clever stuff, and best of all, there’s a grey, fluffy cat that’s seemingly made out of spaghetti that accompanies you on your journey as well. Take that, The Witness.
Viewfinder is currently set for release at an unknown date later in 2023, but after playing the GDC demo, it’s definitely shot to the top of my ‘keep an eye on’ list (together with The Thaumaturge, of course). So why not try the Viewfinder “Snapshot” demo to see for yourself? It’s free, after all, and samples some early and later game puzzles to put your viewfinding skills to the test.
You can also check out the rest of Steam Puzzle Fest right here, which runs from April 24th to May 1st.