Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery Review: Painting with Emotions
Sometimes, reviewing a game is fairly straightforward; other times, it’s downright difficult. Not because the game was bad (usually the contrary) or because it’s hard to come to a score, but because the game itself is best enjoyed by the player experiencing it firsthand and not through another person’s prose. Maybe the title is short but sweet. Maybe it’s a tear-jerker. Maybe it adds something completely new to the genre.
Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery does all three, so forgive me while I struggle to put to paper exactly what makes it so unique without spoiling anything.
Behind the Frame’s Nintendo page describes itself as “a vivid, interactive fiction about an aspiring artist on the cusp of finishing the final piece of her gallery submission,” while the trailer for The Finest Scenery DLC mysteriously lures players in with a terse “step into a new painter’s artistic adventure.” Although it doesn’t sound like a lot of detail, it’s all that is needed story-wise to go into Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery and truly enjoy it. In fact, any more and you’ll likely ruin the pleasure of discovering things for yourself.
So what can I say about Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery?
At times, it feels more quintessential Miyazaki than Studio Ghibli’s own Ni no Kuni. Fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service are especially going to melt into this title, as it offers all those slice of life moments the animation giant loves to tantalize us with. Steam rising from a cup of warm coffee, a cat stretching between naps, rain falling gently on a romantic afternoon… it’s almost as if the dev team had bottled essence of Miyazaki and unleashed it into their game, and we’re all the richer for it.
The painting mechanic is another enjoyable facet about Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery, where puzzles revolve around adding a splash of color here and there to complete a picture. At first, I was worried about getting the paint within the lines perfectly, but the protagonists and their canvases are forgiving, so it’s no trouble if you mess up. No use crying over spilled paint, as they say!
Where Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery really shines is in its complete picture — both the base game and its DLC together. I played through the game and DLC in its entirety once, then immediately sat my husband down and forced him to play it with me again for a second time because I wanted him to experience the incredible beauty on offer. Sure, for the gentle slice of life imagery and the enjoyable painting mechanic, but moreso for the storyline and what it conveys about love. This isn’t a typical love story that ends in a predictable way, rather a tale of keeping something so close, reality becomes fantasy — and, over time, part of an identity.
I don’t want to spoil anymore than what I’ve already said, but playing through twice in one evening turned me into a veritable puddle of tears. We were both so moved by this uniquely mature and bittersweet expression of love, regret, acceptance, and contemplation that we spent the entire night talking about the depths of the emotions presented, analyzing it for hours afterwards. I’m not sure a story like Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery exists elsewhere, so masterfully woven between canvases, so delicately expressed through paint, so honestly exposed by both artists. What was accomplished here was tremendous, and if you’ve ever said so long but not goodbye to anyone who has tenderly held your heart, Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery is a must play.
Words fail me when it comes to Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery. A stunning tribute to a love borne of all the things that should have been said but were kept within, Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery made me full on sob after witnessing its incredible beauty. Fans of Miyazaki films will come for the art style but stay for the tear-jerking story that will paint their hearts with the colors of every raw and real emotion portrayed. If you’re ready to cry — and then, after that, cry some more — Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery awaits your brush.
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: PS4, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: Akatsuki Taiwan, Akupara Games; Developer: Silver Lining Studio; Players: 1; Released: June 2, 2022; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery provided by the publisher.