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Viewfinder Photography Puzzler

ℹ️ - Viewfinder


Viewfinder is one of those games that comes around every so often; an outstanding puzzler that is sure to be one of the most delightfully innovative titles you'll see this year. In fact, even from the short demo, I feel confident in saying that Sad Owl Studios' maiden release (out on 18th July) is one of the most innovative ideas I've seen in gaming full stop.

Viewfinder - Sad Owl Studios


Essentially a first-person photography simulator – or "first-person shooter" as the studio themselves have gleefully described it – Viewfinder may not feature a Photo Mode in the traditional sense, but its extraordinarily novel use of an in-game camera proves that those Sad Owls have creative ideas to match their evident mastery of puns.

Right from the outset, and just in case the title of the game wasn't already enough of a clue, it is made clear that a camera is going to be an integral part as even the start screen and options menu are styled to be part of a camera UI.


Before being able to snap away yourself though, Viewfinder's genius is introduced using some existing photos and pictures that you will find conveniently lying around the place. Hold a photograph out in front of you, choose where to "place" it, and marvel as the contents of the image are transposed directly into the game world and the previously 2D frame becomes a glorious new 3D environment to explore and interact with!


The same trick works with paintings, postcards, and sketches too and it doesn't take long before you are putting archways into solid walls, bridging impassable gaps, and completely altering the world you are in. It's as mind-bending as some of the best bits from Portal and Manifold Garden, and all just using the contents of otherwise static pictures...

By the time you get a camera of your own – a suitably retro Polaroid-style instant camera by the way – it's hard to even imagine all of the possibilities, and that's without even considering the photocopiers and VHS-like ability to rewind time.

Flip entire structures to build a walkable path, obviously; duplicate items you need, sure why not; a never-ending spiral of frames within frames, if that's what you want!


It's a fantastic way to explore, and indeed create a game world, and an even better way to solve puzzles as you pay attention to the literal depth of possibilities you see within a frame or imagine what a certain structure could become when viewed from a different perspective.

The concept simply works perfectly and as much as I enjoy something that encourages a bit of thought about the contents of an image, I also just love seeing photography being used as a core gameplay mechanic. Just like Toem, ISO, and Season: A letter to the future before it, Viewfinder is another example of how the relationship between video games and photography grows ever deeper.

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