Behind the Frame | Review


Behind the Frame Review | Guide brush strokes and solve a variety of puzzles to help an aspiring artist complete her masterpiece amid her brusque neighbor’s gaze and his pesky cat. As her painting starts to take shape, uncover an emotional tale of chance and artistry revealed behind unrelated yet familiar moments.

Developer: Silver Lining Studio
Date Played: December 2021
Console: PC
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 1 hour

From the moment I first heard the phrase “escape room puzzles in a Studio Ghibli-esque world” I was sold. A game like this deserved my full attention, so I patiently waited until Christmas 2021 when I’d have more time to spare before downloading it. The cosy evening of the 23rd of December was the perfect time. A time when the wind and rain howled outside, for me to make a big mug of tea and dive behind the frame into a peaceful and wholesome world.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

The story centres around you, an aspiring young artist living in a small studio apartment who dreams of of exhibiting her work in New York. Opposite, an elderly painter living with a tabby cat is occasionally glimpsed in a series of dream-like animated sequences. Each day you rise, make eggs on toast, pour a cup of coffee, and work on your painting. To your dismay, each time you power on your laptop you find your application to go to New York has been deleted, and your painting seems further from completion than ever before.

Your goal is to solve enough puzzles to discover more colours to finish your painting in time for the exhibition. But oddly, the details around you never change. The calendar on the wall displays the same date. But, as you play through this short game you quickly discover there’s a greater story unravelling around you in the stillness of art. Your life flits in and out of reverie and darker secrets bubble to the surface.

Who is the old man who lives opposite? More to the point, who are you?

Puzzles in Paintings

Behind the Frame is a puzzle game – and a point and click escape room at that – but it’s also a very narrative, emotionally heavy story. With each new chapter you learn a part of the whole story, but each time it feels like you’re scrambling to recover memories of the bigger picture.

In the escape room world really good storytelling is often missing from physical rooms and puzzle games. With just an hour’s time limit, it’s hard to write detailed narratives. The developers of Behind the Frame on the other hand have started with the story first, and then woven the puzzles throughout the game to support and advance the narrative – and it shows! It’s an incredibly moving story told through satisfying art-based puzzles.

In terms of puzzles, the setting dictates a lot of what can and cannot be done, and most puzzles centre around memory. Players will be shown a detail, and will later need to recreate it in their artwork to progress. In other sequences, players will encounter something in their environment and will need to recreate it on a wooden block puzzle they find in their home. In both cases, the game requires you to pay attention and use your artistic skill to solve the mystery.

At other times, you’ll discover hidden objects around your room and sketch or assemble them like jigsaws in your handy notebook. At no point during this game did I feel any of the puzzles were particularly challenging – but that’s part of the beauty. Behind the Frame is best played in one sitting, and each puzzle will take seconds to solve as not to disrupt the flow of the story.

Studio Ghibli, Eat Your Heart Out

…Haha, I’m kidding. Nothing can surpass a Ghibli film. But Behind the Frame comes close.

There’s a good reason this video game keeps being compared to the infamous Japanese film producer, despite the two having nothing to do with each other. Behind the Frame uses a combination of animated sequences and point and click gameplay. both of which feel lovingly hand drawn and perfectly in place with the style we see in many vintage anime films of the Studio Ghibli era.

What’s more, the story is heartbreaking and full of a sense of loss for a time we aren’t sure we ever knew. Players are encouraged to find the joy in every day life through the peaceful sound of coffee cups clinking and brushstrokes on paper. I am at once immediately at home playing Behind the Frame.

The Verdict

Behind the Frame is a magical puzzle game like nothing else I’ve ever played. It’s a marriage of my two favourite video game genres: escape room and wholesome, and this is a game I’ll be returning to over and over whenever I need a break from reality.

The game is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices – however I’d recommend playing it on PC or Nintendo Switch to get the most out of your artistic journey.

The only issue? it’s far too short. At six chapters long, the game is playable within 30 to 60 minutes. I went back and played it twice in order to collect 100% of the Steam achievements – another unchallenging pursuit – and still felt I needed a little more. More paintings, more stories from the girl’s life, more of everything. I need more of the magical whimsy Behind the Frame sprinkled into my life on a cold December evening.

To play Behind the Frame, head to the developer’s website and choose your platform here.


Moroi Springs: Winterlore II | Review


Moroi Springs Winterlore II Review | Follow the story of Ozana and her new found powers. The traditions she knew inside out bring a new meaning to her way of life and to Mamaie’s customs. She’ll mend herbs, brew concoctions and cook sweets for the solstice feast. Along the way she’ll encounter guests bringing in new beginnings, while others appear uninvited into the home.

Date Played: 1st September 2021
Console: PC
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

When Moroi Springs announced they were creating a sequel to the beautiful and heartfelt Winterlore game, my heart skipped a little beat! I first played the original Winterlore game over Christmas in 2020… At the height of the pandemic, isolated from my friends and family, sitting alone in my room wrapped in a blanket. The game was a little look into a far flung land of myths and legends, shrouded in mystery and heck – it meant a lot to me!

On September 1st 2021, Winterlore II launched. The moment I saw the notification I hit “download” and leaped back into the snow, to the familiar world of Moroi Springs.

Ozana and the Winter Solstice

The game opens with the Winter solstice and Ozana is now all grown up. We meet her preparing for the festivities, her partner Vasily, plagued by some terrible dark force, and her young baby suffering from blindness, asleep in her cot. Ozana’s goal is to break the curse of Yaga and restore good health to her family once more and the solstice is the key to this. But in order to break the curse she must perform a series of seasonal rituals passed down through her familial line on this important solstice night.

Along the way we as players get to explore Ozana’s home and are reminded of the first game with Easter Eggs dotted here and there. We meet new faces in Ozana’s family and are introduced to passing carol singers from the nearby community.

If you’ve played one after the other, there’s a distinct change from the first game into the second. Our character has matured, she now understands the ways of the world. Where she once needed careful instructions from her grandmother, Ozana now knows the correct amount of ingredients by pinching the flour between her fingers, and walks with confidence through this ever winter, folkloric world.

Discover Lost Traditions Through Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, Winterlore II follows the same pattern as the first game in the series, making it a classic point and click escape room video game. Hidden throughout the house are a series of recipe notes, visually indicating what must be combined to create recipes – quince jam, or pastry sweets for example. To find the ingredients, players must solve a series of puzzles – ranging from rotational puzzles, to slider puzzles, to rearranging jars on a shelf, and visual lock codes.

Overall, nothing is too difficult. Unlike the first game, I didn’t need to use any hints this time round and the whole thing felt paced out nicely. Each new space unlocked gives a new clue and never once did I feel lead down the wrong pathway away from a puzzle solution. Rather, everything fell into place neatly.

A Folkloric Escape Room Video Game

For me, the special sauce that makes Moroi Springs such a fantastic game developer is how they’ve positioned Romanian traditions and Balkan folklore tales so perfectly in a puzzle environment. It just goes to show how powerful puzzle games can be in telling the stories of those who traditionally do not have a space to do so, at least not within the video game industry.

In the short hour it took me to play Winterlore II I’ve learned all about winter solstice traditions, mythical creatures and seasonal food and dress from region… And I love that!

The Verdict

Once again Moroi Springs have outdone themselves! Second games in a series are typically harder to live up to the first, but not for Moroi Springs. The creative team’s hard work on Winterlore II has paid off and Winterlore II was an absolute joy to play! Opening up the game and seeing the first snowflakes fall felt like returning to a home away from home.

The best part… No matter what platform you’re playing on, Winterlore II is only $1 USD to play. I can’t think of many better ways to spend a dollar.

Winterlore II can be played on mobile devices or PC via Itch.Io. Check out the Moroi Spring’s developer page for more details.

Old Man’s Journey | Review


Old Man’s Journey, a soul-searching puzzle adventure, tells a story of life, loss, and hope. Interacting with the world around you, you’ll shape the landscape to create the old man’s path forward. Experience heartache and hope as you embark on a heartfelt journey through a sunkissed world.

Time Played: 108 minutes
Console: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox
Recommended For: A relaxing puzzle game with beautiful mechanics

An old man, living alone atop a hill, receives a letter in the post and immediately packs up his bags and ventures out on an epic journey across wild terrain, the sea, by train, and perched on the back of a truck. Through the trials on his old bones we learn about his life, his hopes and his dreams through a series of flashbacks. The puzzle mechanics are a simple yet tool to tell this heartbreaking story without a single word. I’m not crying… YOU’RE CRYING!

In the Steam Summer Sale I picked up 30 new titles I’d never heard of before, and Old Man’s Journey was one of them. I didn’t really know what to expect – it was one of my ‘wildcard’ purchases from the “Puzzle” category, and looking at the multitude of excellent reviews I knew I’d found a hidden gem.



I’d move mountains for this old man

…No seriously, that’s how you play this game. Have you ever been in a long car drive daydreaming out the window as the hills rise and fall over the landscape? It’s easy to imagine a figure running along the top of them, leaping from hill to hill as the perspective shifts. This is how the puzzles work in Old Man’s Journey. He’s a lone figure moving across the beautiful landscape alone, on a journey that you’ll not understand until the game’s climax. The side scroller gameplay makes it easy to pick up and master quickly.

It’s a puzzle mechanic I’ve never seen before, making Old Man’s Journey an instant classic in my eyes. Totally original and executed to perfection! Sure, there are other games where moving parts of the landscape is a central mechanic, but pulling and pushing hills out of the way in this whimsical side scroller felt altogether fresh.

Just as the puzzles start to feel repetitive, the game does mix it up a little. Each new area brings with it new challenges – such as encountering sheep which must be safely moved out of the way to let you pass, or fences which must be knocked down. Some of my favourite parts of Old Man’s Story were the ‘travel sequences’, where our old man character hops on a train or the back of a pickup truck and speeds through the landscape gracefully.



I’m not crying… You’re crying!

What I loved most about Old Man’s Journey, no surprise, was the story. It’s equal parts heart warming and heart breaking. As a player, besides shifting the landscape to make the old man’s journey possible, you’re largely left in the dark about the who, what and why, making it feel like you’re going on the journey of discovery with the characters.

At points, the titular characters takes breaks in his walk and reflects on life through a series of flashbacks, each recalling a moment in his life. We see his life as a young man, meeting his first love, starting a family, building his own home and, at points in our own story, the landscape changes to match the mood. There’s a sense of spring youthfulness at the start, and stormy trouble at the old man reflects on sadder moments in his life.

The developers have also added a language-less touch to the whole experience too, making the game powerful for every audience, regardless of language. What I mean by this is there are no words. No written dialogue, no conversation, heck even the buttons aren’t labelled – it’s all intuitive.

It’s excellent environmental storytelling: expressions, weather, colours, and painterly landscapes of the past. Just like this old man is, all are solitary, sad and quiet.




Who should play this?

You should play this if you, like me, keep forgetting to ring your grandparents, or elderly parents. It’s a really straightforward puzzle game and easy to get the hang of – so a great one for puzzle enthusiasts and beginners alike. Old Man’s Journey has also now been released for mobile too, so there’s no excuse not to check it out.

Personally, I played this on PC. I felt a little bit under the weather and wanted to sit back, enjoy some Art (with a capital A!) and solve some simple puzzles. At around 60 minutes long, it’s on the shorter side. You could complete this game in the same length of time it takes to complete an escape room, or more likely wait in line at the doctors.

This makes it a great game to check out if you’ve only an hour or two to spare, want simple mechanics and beautiful graphics. Play Old Man’s Story for a sense of peace and a meaningful message. This game is undemanding, moving and utterly brilliant.


Purchase Old Man’s Journey on the website.

Frog Detective: The Haunted Island


You’re a detective, and a frog, and it’s time to solve a mystery. Play as the freshest frog in the pond and find the secret of The Haunted Island. Using your extreme investigation skills, question suspects and find clues to get to the bottom of this spooky and mysterious mystery.

Time Played: 42 minutes
Console: PC
Recommended For: Frogs, Detectives, and everything inbetween

Frog? Detective? FROG DETECTIVE? Haunted Island? What kinda Scooby Doo s**t is this?! I’m kidding. Real talk, this game is… Incredible! A true work of art among video games. Of course, when I first picked it up I wasn’t sure. It’d popped up on my Twitter feed once or twice, and if you know me you know I love a good detective game so I couldn’t resist giving it a cheeky go. On loading up the game, the first page throws back some very unconventional graphics settings. From there in, I knew I was in for a treat.

The Frog Detective series is a labour of love by video game duo Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker, with an original soundtrack by Dan Golding. It launched back in 2018 and my only regret is not picking up a copy sooner.

In this first person detective game, you play the titular character, Frog Detective and are pulled into a mysterious, yet oddly intriguing mystery on a tropical island, way out in the middle of the ocean. You see, the owner of the island, Martin (a sloth wearing a solid gold crown) is convinced it is haunted. He’s been hearing mysterious ghostly noises for about two weeks now and is terrified. It’s really putting him off his dance training for the big competition this weekend. Yeah, that’s the plot. Bear with me on this one.

This sets the scene for your arrival on the island where you’re greeted by a motley crew of “ghost scientists”. You’ll quickly come to realise none of these scientists are qualified, but that’s part of the charm of this game, really.

From herein Frog Detective is less about solving the mystery and more about exploring your environment and talking to as many anthropomorphic animals on the island as possible. Wait, does that mean the game is really about making friends? Sure! I mean, you do also have a magnifying glass and you can look at evidence (or just bugs really), very close up. But really you’re just there to help the plot reach it’s unusual, yet logical conclusion: to compete in a dance competition.

The main thing that drives the game is narrative. Each character you can interact with is quirky and bordering on the ridiculous – there’s a nervous, stammering mouse, a koala bobbing about in the ocean, a dental hygiene obsessed crocodile, and Bernie the bear who is convinced you’re a secret agent- oh, and he loves pasta. It’s important to the plot. No really, it is.

Each character has a jittery, nervous energy. It must be all the ghosts. But, like a true sleuth, Frog Detective picks up on the suspicious behaviour and gently nudges you towards a wholesome interrogation to find out what’s really going on.

What I love most about the game though is it’s absolute unashamed absurdity. There’s a detective noire vibe (and soundtrack!) that butts heads with the bright colours and smiling faces of the characters in the tropical paradise. The characters speak frankly and really your only goal in the game is to run errands between them, finding (and trading for) items in order to get what you want to progress.

The puzzles aren’t really the point … *pause* … So why am I even writing about this game on this escape room blog? Because it’s still a mystery. Just how in many escape rooms I’ve had to do really ‘outside the box’ things to solve a room, in Frog Detective you have to err… Be a frog, walk around, and compete in dance competitions. There’s no right or wrong way to solve a mystery. I don’t discriminate against frog related experiences.

Overall, there’s not much more that can be said about Frog Detective. Frog Detective is something you have to experience for yourself and either you’ll ‘get it’ or you won’t. I don’t know if I’d recommend this to do the ‘hardcore-escape-room’ group of enthusiasts, no. Instead, you have to go into this with a sense of whimsy and not expect any complex puzzles. Frog Detective never once claims to be anything other than it is: A detective story about a frog.

Frog Detective: The Haunted Island can be purchased for £3.99 on Steam. Head to their website to find out more and support the game.