Returning readers will know that I really enjoy discovering new and interesting games through the PS Talents project over in Spain. It’s a programme that helps small indie developers either create or finish off their games and publish them on the PlayStation platform, with help from their resources, dev kits, and like-minded developers. We’ve had some really fun 3D platformers, party games, an upcoming horror game, and now a puzzle game within VR. Anyone’s Diary was developed by World Domination Project and published by Factoria Cultural Gestio for European PSVR owners (maybe a USA release will come later this year?).
This artistic and interactive puzzle game may only take around 90 minutes to finish, before going back for the other trophies, but I was hooked from the start due to the nature of the puzzles and the rather cryptic narrative from our silent protagonist. However, there is a big issue with the game at the point of writing this review which I think we need to talk about…
Following on from games such as Inside, Limbo, RiME and many others, Anyone’s Diary contains zero dialogue, either written or spoken. You’re free to interpret the scenes which you see playing out before you in whatever way you see fit. This is a mechanic which I both like and am not a fan of. I like it because it means the game will appeal to a much wider audience – if there’s no dialogue then everyone will pick up on the story through their own language as they decipher in their head what’s happening. It also means that those who are hard of hearing won’t miss a thing, unlike in a few other games recently.
The reason I’m not a fan of this type of storytelling is that a game has to have a strong story behind the actions, an emphasis which you can spot a mile off, for the story to become clear and obvious to everyone. This is where I felt a little confused and lost with Anyone’s Diary. Now, this may just be me as I know I can sometimes become distracted and forget what I was just doing, but I wasn’t 100% sure what the story was trying to tell me. I’ve read the blurb on the store page, which tells me the story is about ‘Anyone’, a silent character who we guide through the pages of their diary whilst facing the darkest events of their past.
That synopsis makes sense, and I can kind of see it in the scenes I’ve played through, but without narrative or background, I would never have guessed that’s what was going on by simply playing the game blind, so to speak. This isn’t the first game that has underdelivered the storytelling for me. 18 Floors was another game that has a really interesting and clear synopsis, yet the story isn’t relived or brought up in-game.
Let’s ignore my issues with the story for now, as it may be only me who couldn’t see the story, and let’s take a look at the core gameplay of Anyone’s Diary – the puzzles. I really enjoyed them. I’ve heard some people didn’t, because there are only a few mechanics which are repeated throughout the game, but I liked the intuitive designs and thought-provoking solutions. Throughout the game, you’ll get sliding puzzles, where you slide rooms around so you can pass through safely – like in Rooms – and puzzles that require you to seek out a lever in the world and manually rotate it with your hand. There are a few other variations on these two mechanics, such as moving platforms to create a passageway or flipping a platform whilst you stand on another so that only one moves, but the basic concept is the same.
So, there are a decent amount of puzzles and they will make you think, especially if you’re going for the platinum which requires you to stick to certain routes on multiple playthroughs, but there isn’t a wide variety of puzzles.
In regards to the controls, Anyone’s diary can be played with either the DS4 or Move controllers. I found it to be a much better experience if you use the Move controllers as the puzzles become a lot more immersive when you’re literally reaching out and grabbing the levels to turn them around. However, controlling our protagonist is a little easier with the control stick on the DS4 (rather than face buttons on the Move).
As for moving around the world to look at what you’re doing, you can use the Right stick on the DS4 to slowly pan around the place, or both control methods allow you to ‘grab’ the environment and literally pull yourself around the world (within a set distance from your character). This process helps you out a lot when looking for collectables and if you want to get up close to the beautiful environments and have a nosey at the details.
Hide and Seek
On top of the puzzles and the platforming (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there is quite a bit of platforming as well) there are also a few hidden characters to find within the first level. These are tiny models of the developers who are basically playing hide and seek with you. If you touch these nicely drawn figures, you’ll get a trophy for each one and you’ll move one step closer to getting the platinum trophy. I really enjoyed looking for these characters as you really have to get in close to some areas by pulling the world towards you and looking on top of each building or hiding behind the scenery.
I’ve not really touched on the progression of the story and how I interpreted it – this is intentional. As I wasn’t 100% clear on the story being presented to me, I feel describing what happens will possibly be wrong or a spoiler as I describe it. What I will say is the first chapter is quite ‘normal’ and appears to be the diary pages of someone describing some terrible events. Then, the next two chapters are a bit more fantastical.
*Update* – I’ve played the game three times now and this is what the story meant to me:
It seems like the first chapter is the real-life events of our protagonist, a few events which trigger their depression and anxiety. The following chapters are how these feelings begin to take control of them as they become more and more absorbed by the depression and unwillingness to go on as more and more obstacles appear within their path. It seems like it’s a story of how we cope with all the issues and problems as we choose whether to take the easy route or the more difficult one in order to build our strength or succumb to the darkness.
That’s what I got from the silent narrative and the gradual increase of puzzles and their difficulty. In a way, it reminded me of the moral and emotional decisions we saw in The Path of Motus.
Visually, Anyone’s Diary looks great in VR. Sure, it’s rather simple in terms of you only seeing a certain amount of the world on-screen at a time (as it bleeds off to the sides), but the visual quality is great as you can see all the minute details nice and clear. I loved how a lot of the environmental objects, like the cars, seem to be made out of paper like it’s the pages of your diary which you’re in – both figuratively and literally. When the walls and floors don’t look like writing from your diary, they look like doodles that have been drawn onto a sheet of paper, further adding to the whole ‘diary’ aspect.
The music within Anyone’s Diary is very nice – it’s calm and Jazz-like when you’re solving the puzzles, and more frantic when events happen in the later stages. The music does kind of help to emphasise the story the silent narrative is trying to get across to us, so I applaud the developers for that, I just had issues working out the story and narrative as I was playing it.
I did have two issues whilst playing Anyone’s Diary on the PSVR via my PS4 Pro. The first may have just been a glitch on my side – one of the rotating pads in the final chapter got stuck at a strange angle, this meant I couldn’t solve the puzzle and was forced to exit to the main menu and start again. There are no checkpoints if you back out, so this happening right near the end meant I had to replay the whole chapter.
The second issue I had, and the one I reported to the developers immediately, is the fact the game doesn’t appear to be saving any progression. If you quit the game and go back in, it acts like you’ve done nothing and you have to work your way through the game from the beginning each time. I don’t think it’s intentional so I hope this is resolved soon. As it’s only a short game, I never had an issue with this bug, but it does mean you can’t save your progress as of today.
Anyone’s Diary may have left me confused about its story but I really enjoyed the visuals and puzzles. Sure, we do see the same mechanic for the puzzles repeated a few times as you travel through this artistic puzzle platformer, but each puzzle has its own spin on the mechanic and keeps you interested. The design choice to have everything made out of drawings and writing from your diary really helps create a surreal and symbolic experience in this twisted world.
Utilising either the DS4 or the Move Controllers, tracking works really well and manipulating the puzzles can be done with ease. I would have prefered a bit of dialogue, narrative, or explanatory text to help me fully understand the story which was being acted out, but regardless, I still enjoyed working out the solutions and finding all the hidden developers.
- - A nice balance of platforming, puzzles and looking around
- - Simple controls via both methods, with the Move controllers allowing you to move yourself and the character at the same time
- - I really liked the music
- - I thought the visuals of the environments was really cool
- - The whole game feels very artistic in both it's visuals and delivery
- - I wasn't 100% sure about what the story was telling me on my first playthrough
- - The save files aren't working at the moment
- - The experience is a little short if you're not looking for the platinum