Review: Viewfinder

It is increasingly rare that first-person puzzle games exist. Over the years, there have been impressive titles like The Talos Principle, The Witness, and Portal. Many hold these titles dearly thanks to their brilliant mechanics and ability to challenge the mind. Now, there’s a new title to watch out for as Viewfinder from Sad Owl Studios launches this week, quickly becoming one of my favourites.

The basics of a good puzzle game offer the right combination of various puzzles to difficulty. It also provides a good level of challenge, where the player can break down steps without being impossible to figure out.

Of course, variety among the puzzles must also be good: excessive repetitiveness could quickly tire users. All this is achievable if one can develop an innovative and, in some respects, even new premise. Viewfinder succeeds in bringing something new to the masses and delivers one of the more original ideas available this year.

Look at this photograph

The core gameplay revolves around manipulating the environment to navigate through each level. As you progress, you’ll discover the power of photographs, imbuing depth into the world space and unveiling hidden passages and alternate routes. The puzzles start with elegance, repurposing simple elements like walls and doors but steadily evolve, introducing new mechanics and challenges. Introducing a photocopier and mounted cameras with timers adds depth to the gameplay, offering diverse strategies to tackle each puzzle.

Sometimes, you’ll find a Polaroid or take one yourself before manipulating the picture to solve a puzzle, discover a hidden secret, a passage, or ways to traverse the world around you. These pictures will be the basic recipe for changing the environment around you. In the first part of the game, you’ll familiarize yourself with these photographs – you can lift, move, and shift them. Once placed, the real fun begins as the image movies from a 2D background into a total 3D environment.

The goal of each section is to reach the teleporter of the next area, power it and pass through it. You must create passages and retrieve batteries by manipulating the environment. The level will grow as you move throughout, making the challenges more intriguing and causing you to discover new ways to change reality.


Sometimes, the teleporter seems unreachable, with no clear path to the end. That’s where you use the power of photography to pull you forward. So, you’ll take out the image and maneuver it in several directions hoping for the solution to appear. There’s no in-game hint system, so you’ll rotate the photo until the solution clicks into place, and sometimes that means looking at pictures of a non-descript item that can bridge the gap from 2D to 3D. The main gimmick is using perspective to solve the puzzles in front of you, and Sad Owl Studios has nailed this aspect gracefully.

Viewfinder’s filled with incredible moments

In the first few minutes of the Viewfinder, you quickly familiarize yourself with the game’s mechanics; however, it isn’t until later that the truth genius behind the mechanics flourishes and allows you to experience the greatness presented to you. You pull objects to create passages or discover hidden secrets while rotating images freely to achieve different results. You need to align the image with the correct plane; you will find that, in some places, it will be necessary to rotate everything 180 degrees to avoid falling.


Each level feels unique and presents itself as such, with each level stunning. Pair that with music that enhances your ability to think things through, and you have a winning combination. Viewfinder’s presentation is one of the best this year, and its ability to reward you for thinking outside the box is some of the most gorgeous landscapes.

While the mechanics are some of the most exciting aspects of Viewfinder, the story is considerably mundane. The world is on the brink of collapse, and thanks to the effects of climate change, the outside world isn’t looking so good these days. Everything you’re doing in-game is essentially data pulled into the world before it turns to dust, and the goal is to discover a machine to help turn the tides and return Earth to better days. Some elements of the story show promise but also retreads many familiar beats. There are also audio logs and diary pages to help fill in gaps, but ultimately, the narrative falls short and leaves something a bit more cohesive.


Viewfinder is not a particularly long game. You’ll explore five worlds around, 20 puzzles or so puzzles, plus some additional challenges and collectibles hidden in most levels. At the heart of Viewfinder lies the charming AI companion, Cait. As you venture through the game’s virtual reality levels, Cait is your trusted guide, providing insight, company, and encouragement.


Despite the story never hitting any highs, the puzzles are some of the most memorable instances you’ll experience in Viewfinder. There’s so much to admire here, and Viewfinder redefines what a puzzle-solving adventure can be in a world of optical wonders. While it may not rely heavily on a traditional narrative, its mind-boggling puzzles and immersive photo-based mechanics make it a standout experience. Get ready to unleash your imagination, bend reality, and embrace the sheer joy of exploration with Viewfinder.


[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

A solid puzzle game that'll test your merit
Wiggle room for puzzle solutions
Surprising twists
Didn't Like
Story moments lack impact