Creating an atmosphere in a game can be one of the hardest things to achieve. We've all enjoyed platformers and shooters, but it's only the rarest specimen that actually gets under our skin and manages to set its own tone. And the finest examples are usually to be found in the point-and-click adventure genre.
We've already seen how The Room masterfully weaves a sense of unease into each poke and prod of its mechanical boxes, but now Forever Lost is up to similar tricks, albeit on a more expansive scale. And while it's not quite up there with The Room in terms of quality, it's still an intriguing, often mystifying experience.
Point and scratch
The game starts with you waking up in a locked room, then walks you through the basics of its simple tapping controls. You touch an object to interact with it. Sometimes you'll pick it up and slip it in your inventory. Other times you'll scoot in for a closer lock.
It doesn't take you long to find the right key and make your way into the corridors outside, at which point you find yourself in a deserted mental hospital. It's there that the cacophonous sense of unease really begins to descend.
Soon you'll have a camera, which lets you take photos of your surroundings. Subtle hints hidden in plain sight push and pull you in the direction the narrative wants you to go in, while the puzzles and problems the game presents you with are esoteric and often bizarre.
Forever Lost is odd. It plays with the structures of its own genre, throws you into games within games to collect objects, and all the time ripples with this strange, eerie resonance.
The empty corridors alone are enough to give you the creeps, and that's before you notice the desperate messages and strange symbols carved into them.
Twists and but no turns
The idea of being trapped in an abandoned facility, and the tricks that would play on an amnesiac mind, are exploited to the full. You can't help but feel, as the story progresses, like you've already had some part to play in it.
The game can't quite manage to match its lofty concepts with its visual style, though, and often the dull greys become a little too overbearing and repetitive. Where The Room had a signature look, Forever Lost seems to rely on blandness too often.
But it still features simple but ingenious moments, such as moving a desk light to better illuminate a darkened room, or the first time you pick up the in-game tablet and start to play an odd Zelda-like game, only to find the items you picked up in the colourful cartoon world in your inventory.
It's fair to say, then, that this is a game unlike anything else on the App Store. Its story and world are at times bleak and hopeless, but the gloom is frequently broken by strange slapstick jokes about hospital patients.
Sometimes the contradictions are too jarring, or the fear layered on too heavily, but when the game gets things right it builds an atmosphere that soaks through every pixel of the adventure.
There are mechanical problems, and the fact you can't move your head around to look at the world feels limiting in a negative way, but Forever Lost is packed with questions and ideas that most games can only dream about.