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Unwording – Review

Unwording is a tricky game to review as the reasons why it made such an impact with me are partly spoilers. Fundamentally, Unwording is a word game that requires you to make new words or phrases with letter dice. Leaving it there would do the game a disservice though. It’s the story and message of the game that really lands an emotional punch.

Starting life in a 2D perspective, your world feels quite narrow and devoid of colour.

You play as a nameless character who is stuck in a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Every time you interact with something like your phone, fridge or work colleagues – a phrase will pop up that you will then rearrange into a phrase that matches your perspective of life. For example, when there are no messages on your phone, the dice that currently read “no messages” can be rearranged into “no one cares” and you do this by rotating the dice around and rearranging them on the screen. This later evolves into two other types of puzzle, one that requires you to rotate dice that are exploded out on screen to line them up and create words, and another that asks you to type words in to trigger actions. Whilst these puzzles aren’t hard, the line them up puzzle I found particularly fiddly as you have to be very precise in your lining up and Unwording will only approve certain angles or perspectives. I did appreciate an easy mode though which highlighted where these die are to line up and also provided a couple of hint letters to help steer your phrases in the right direction.

Whilst the puzzles were fine, it was the wraparound story that really impressed me. The idea of perspective is taken into account in every single aspect of the game. You start out as a 2D drawing, before moving into a 2.5D plain and then a 3D one later. As your perspective changes and shifts, more things becomes available to interact with and do. Unwording has a subtle teaching moment that really hammered home that taking small steps to change a negative thought pattern can go a long way to change your life. It also has a lovely final act that allows you to appreciate the simpler things in life too.

Yes, you can pet the dog… but only when you change your perspective on life.

Whilst short (I finished the experience in 85 minutes), Unwording left an impact with me long after. It is one of those games where some of the ah-ha moments will probably work best on the first playthrough only so replayability will be a little limited. That said, it is definitely a story I would recommend fans of story rich, emotional games to pick up and play. This is an example where the sum of a games parts makes a huge impression rather than ignoring something because of some fiddly controls at times or a short run time. It is a great example of gaming delivering a message to the player in every aspect of its design and for that, Unwording needs applause.

Review copy provided by developer. Unwording is out now on Steam.

Final Thoughts
A fine story, thoughtful game design and a strong message makes Unwording a memorable experience.
Quietly emotional.
Fantastic use of perspective throughout every part of Unwording's game design.
No filler, no fluff, everything here is intentional to give its message to the player.
The word games can be head scratchers if you want them to be.
Some fiddly controls on the 3D dice rotation puzzles.

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