Anna takes place in a ruined sawmill that’s haunted by . . . something. Your character, a man who only half-remembers being in the same valley as the sawmill, is almost as much of a mystery as the rest of the game. Anna changes the way you view the game when you react to something that happens. It’s almost like the ghost is getting to know you while you play, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Anna changes based on the player’s reactions, forming three distinct paths through the game.
Anna is a Point-and-Click Adventure game, though there are a few places where you open drawers and other things like that. The controls work smoothly, except that if you don’t remember a command, you have to save and go all the way back to the main menu to figure out what the commands are. Once you learn which button does what, then you’re good, though not using the ESC key for the main menu confused me for a bit because most other games do it that way and it’s a habit to hit it and expect the main menu to pop up. Sometimes when the nameless narrator is attempting to open things, it takes a few click and pulls for it to work. This isn’t really much of an issue, because the sound effects for the doors are quite excellent. It really does sound as if our hero is creeping round a scary sawmill and poking around. Sometimes an object and its surroundings pixels are so close together that you have to hunt carefully for the pixels of what you want to interact with, and if you click the wrong thing, then whatever you’re trying to do may not work, and you might just give up. Anna solves this by having an identifier on the left side of the screen telling you exactly what you’re focused on.
Anna is a beautifully rendered world, based on an actual abandoned sawmill in a mountainous region of Italy. The location, both inside and out, is interesting and creepy all at the same time. While most objects are static unless there’s some reason for you to interact with them, everything in the game looks great. The lighting and fire effects are well done and help the game maintain a feeling of tension. Exploring the sawmill was both fun and frustrating. I knew the game was going to make me think hard when it started outside of the sawmill with no way to get inside, effectively isolating the player from the game and making the player work for the opportunity to get scared inside! I thought it was a great touch, and a realistic one as well. Abandoned places aren’t usually easy to get into, whether you expect to escape them or not. It also gave me a feeling that whoever shut the place up so tight knew the horrors people would find inside. The soundtrack is gorgeous and creepy, really adding to the feel of supernatural exploration.
Anna is not an easy game. Even getting into the sawmill takes work and brainpower. That being said, I didn’t always feel as if I could follow the thought process of Dreampainters and the choices they made for logical (or illogical) actions. Then again, this is what makes adventure games fun. The supernatural touches inside the sawmill, like cans and other objects moving by themselves, ghostly voices, and apparitions, can make a player unwilling to touch an object or combine two things together, because who knows what havoc it might wreak? There’s a Help system in the game, accessed by the ‘H’ key, and what’s nice is that you can choose between light hints or ones that are a bit more spoiler-ish, though Anna never comes out and gives you any of the answers, which I liked. Sometimes there are puzzles that a player expects they should solve one way, and when they don’t, then it can be difficult to think of another in which to solve them. There are three endings to the game, and I will spoil none of them. If you want to learn Anna’s secrets, you’ll just have to meet her in the sawmill yourself.
Anna is for PC, and Dreampainters is working on getting the game onto Steam. In the meantime, going to http://dreampainters-anna.blogspot.com/p/buy-now.html will show you the places where Anna is available online for purchase.