Review: Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery
Behind the Frame, released in 2021, is the first game from Taiwanese indie developer Silver Lining Studio. You play as a young artist named Amber, who is poised to complete her final painting for a gallery submission.
I was grateful that no artistic skill is required of the player. Instead, you simply click and drag (or touch) areas of the screen to paint parts of the canvas in the required color. When you are not painting, you explore Amber’s quaint apartment, make breakfast, and solve seemingly inconsequential puzzles.
Behind the Frame’s visual style draws heavy inspiration from the movies of Studio Ghibli. One scene pays visual homage to Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”. (Credit: Studio Ghibli / Silver Lining Studios. Fair use.)
As the story advances, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Amber is persistently disoriented, her life seems to be circumscribed by the walls of her apartment, and a mysterious old painter across the street comes into play.
The game’s runtime is a little over two hours, which includes a secondary story that unlocks after your first playthrough. The game grabs your attention with its gorgeous art style, which draws obvious inspiration from Studio Ghibli; interactive sequences are interspersed with full-screen cut scenes.
Behind the Frame’s ambience is underscored by a soundtrack that skillfully blends cello, piano, guitar and the Flügelhorn, and which perfectly suits the cozy but slightly forlorn vibes of the game.
Given its short runtime, the less you read about the story going in, the better. Suffice it to say that the story is not entirely straightforward, and like a painting, will likely resonate quite differently for different players.
I found some of the puzzle mechanics a bit tedious, and while I enjoyed the story, it did not move me as much as the short and poignant Florence or the brilliant What Remains of Edith Finch.
Don’t expect a masterpiece, but if you’re looking for a cozy game with gorgeous art and music and a small mystery to unravel, Behind the Frame is a fine choice. I played it on the Steam Deck without issues, and would strongly recommend playing with a mouse or touchscreen, not a controller.