Do you remember the last time you got gas for your car? Imagine that gas pump, after many years, has been abandoned. Soon you'll have forgotten about it, and so has everyone else whoever used it. The lonely gas pump is then transported into a magical land where inanimate objects get souls and livelihoods. Unbeknownst to you, the person who forgot the gas pump, the pump is living semi-happily in this bizarro world. The pump's name is Plumbum. They smoke a cigar, probably Cuban, at all times. They're in police work. Of course, you wouldn't know this, because you forgetting about the pump is what landed it in this renewed existence in the first place.
That's the charming setting for the adventure puzzle-platformer Forgotton Anne: a world akin to the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this world, the things we've long forgotten have become "Forgotlings," and these formerly inanimate objects populate the Forgotten Lands. They all have distinct, memorable personalities too. There's the pompous police inspector who is a literal gun. There's the heroine's childhood friend, a kind-hearted lampshade. Elsewhere in town, there's a purple rocking horse who sweetly tells the main character that her dad says that she's "not as bad as everyone says." But some Forgotlings aren't nice to the game's heroine at all, which we learn is fair considering her reputation.
In Forgotton Anne, you're playing as the human girl Anne, better known as Madam Enforcer. She sticks out like a sore thumb in the Forgotten Lands, and seemingly the only other human being there is the ruler of it all (who lies somewhere between being her father figure and her boss): Master Bonku. As per her formidable title, she has a rough reputation. Passersby gasp when she appears on a scene, some call her "soul snatcher" and other harsh names. Like Master Bonku, she possesses the ability to wield a magical substance known as the Arca. Arca is what keeps the Forgotlings alive. It can also be snatched away by Anne with just the flick of a wrist.
And that's where her nasty reputation comes from: as the Enforcer, Anne uses the Arca for what some may perceive as evil. With the Arca, Anne has the potential to "distill" any sentient thing that doesn't obey the laws of the Forgotten Lands, sapping them of their livelihood. That's why she's feared and respected in equal measure: she "keeps the peace" in a violent way. Yet some still see her as a protector, just as she sees herself.
It's an uncomfortable cop-like position, putting the player in the shoes of an officer abusing (or learning how not to abuse) their power. Forgotton Anne was made by the Denmark-based studio Throughline Games though, not American game developers, so this parallel in all likelihood is just a coincidence—a catch-all "maybe we shouldn't blindly accept our government and authority figures" sort-of message. From a storytelling perspective, it has a lot more in common with the likes of Studio Ghibli's eco-terrorism magical raccoon tale Pom Poko or even the coming-of-age of Howl's Moving Castle than, say, the cutting political commentary of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.
As for the game itself, Forgotton Anne is determined strongly by choices. I imagine behind it lies a complex web of decisions—the type that Quantic Dream drop in the trailers for their games—showing the many, many different outcomes. As a game with six concrete endings and a number of different branches to get to each, Forgotton Anne goes beyond simple black and white morality choices. A lot of the choices you direct Anne to make are far more nuanced.
For instance, in an early part of the game, you're tasked with interrogating a rebel Forgotling. The rebels (the Forgotlings that don't want to comply with their "assigned" jobs and have rebelled against the Forgotten Lands' laws) have begun an attack, and Anne's on a quest to track down the rebel leader and put a stop to it. Master Bonku is finishing up construction on the Ether Bridge, which is the only way they can return to the human world, even though Anne's only ever known the Forgotten Lands as her home. This return is also something that's been promised to all the dutiful, complacent Forgotlings, even if they're more likely to crystallize (essentially growing old and dying) than see that Ether ticket to "freedom."
There are a number of ways the rebel interrogation can go, and it's more than just playing good cop or bad cop. If you're nice and considerate to the rebel Forgotling, you can get useful information out of them. If you're too mean, you run the risk of fudging the interrogation and resorting to more violent means (like distilling or summoning the trigger-happy literal revolver Inspector Magnum, both choices lead to different outcomes). Regardless, your result is determined by your actions, and some will come to haunt you at different parts of the game.
It's not just big choices that alter the game's path either. Sometimes, dialogue options only shift how a character sees you. If you live up to the brutal reputation of The Enforcer, you'll likely have a lot of negative run-ins with other Forgotlings. It's like an invisible, Telltale-style "This character will remember this," is hovering over every conversation Anne partakes in. Everything, even if it doesn't feel like it'll have weight, usually does.
Playing through Forgotton Anne a couple times (my first playthrough took about seven hours) in addition to hopping around separate points of the story—an option that's unlocked after the first playthrough—I was surprised at how different the interactions became just from a few smaller choices. I felt that I was really in control of Anne and her personal journey, rather than just the overarching plot; the latter being a trap for a lot of choose-your-own-adventure type games.
The platforming parts, unfortunately, often get in the way of the grander pacing of Forgotton Anne. The jump itself is very floaty, and a lot of the time platforming sections rely on precision to progress to the next area. In a lot of these sequences, Anne must climb upwards to reach vantage points and jump across buildings and windowsills. (There is no death, only inconveniences like falling all the way downwards and slowly climbing and leaping back up to where ever you need to be again.) The biggest jumps often rely on opening up Anne's robotic wings to help her glide at just the right moment.
Her wing-less jumps are worse. In one section where I had to direct a moving platform using Anne's Arca to a certain point to solve a puzzle, when I hopped to the platform slightly below it, I'd often overshoot it. It was too far away to simply walk off the platform and drop down to, and Anne's normal jump was too floaty and overshot it. Finally landing on the platform after a few annoying tries of redoing the entire platforming puzzle made me feel relief rather than satisfaction. The opposite of some of the game's other, more enjoyable puzzles.
Whether the platforming's tied into puzzles or just getting to the next destination, it weighs down a lot of sections where you have to get from point A to point B. It complicates the game's slick anime-inspired art direction too, where sometimes the art design gets in the way of the game itself. There were countless times where I found myself lost, only to realize after staring at the screen for awhile that there was a ladder blending into the environment. Where the choose-your-own-adventure components and character interactions gripped me for most of the game, the hang-ups during platforming and exploration often just held it back.
Still, Forgotton Anne's absorbing world of forgotten things imbued with life—from baby blankets to an old piece of luggage mourning his crystallized companions—is one I was happy to trot through more than once, even just to see the slightest character interactions change. As a result, I'll probably never look at my socks the same way ever again. Because you never know: they could get lost under my bed and get a mind of their own one day.
You may think it's impossible to feel empathetic over an inanimate blanket, and yet, in Forgotton Anne it feels like second nature. And not just for blankets—for all long forgotten things brought to life in the magical Forgotten Lands. While the platforming is often frustrating, the game's captivating world, art direction, and meaningful choices more than make up for it.