The first paper note in Wood for the Trees asks: “don’t you just love reading notes on lamp posts?” Images and icons present in other first-person Unity games like Slender (2012) or Andrew Shouldice’s Hide are on display here too. The same note makes reference to “a missing beloved one” addressed by some of the internal monologue, also presented as text on the screen. Built in two days for the 35th Ludum Dare game jam (the theme of which was “Shapeshift”) Wood for the Trees is pervaded by the awareness that it isn’t a game of entirely new ideas—but it’s better for it.
The dreary forest repeats infinitely, sending the player down a long walk between endless lamp posts until she solves the first puzzle, and then through infinite rocky clearings until she solves the second. The trees ahead fall away again and again, with each new area becoming the only explorable area, looping until some new element is discovered or tweaked.
The magical realism in the premise extends to the stylized visuals of the game. The color palette is rooted in grays and greens, and the forest is murky in a way that hides the infinity and repetition of the landscape. From its first puzzle, Wood for the Trees looks almost painterly due to the chunky pixel filter applied to its camera.
Each puzzle has a clue given either through a note or the self-critical voice of the narrator, and through a bit of wordplay most of the solutions are fairly obvious. Even the title, “Wood for the trees” seems to be making a joke about the importance of the minor details in the grand scheme of things.
The couple that makes up Rat King Entertainment, Jana Reinhardt and Friedrich Hanisch, have participated as a team in 11 Ludum Dare jams and several of the Mini-jams since 2011, and their world-shrinking 2012 game Tale of Scale came 2nd for Innovation and 7th overall.