What’s Beyond the Wall? Let’s find out in this 2D point-and-click indie game, developed by Rocking Toy Studio
Released for mobile and tablet devices on the Apple Store and Google Play on August 28, 2022, and for desktop on Mac, Windows, and Linux via Steam on March 21, 2023, Beyond the Wall will be subsequently released for Nintendo Switch as well.
ROCKING TOY STUDIO
A brief introduction to the creators of this title:
Rocking Toy is a small independent studio based in Prague that specializes in video game development. This group of friends, founded in 2022, is pursuing their dream of making products that they would enjoy playing themselves, such as video games with enchanting atmospheres, smooth gameplay, and unusual stories.
Beyond the Wall is their first title, and after playing it, I can say that this young team is definitely one to watch.
THE FRIEND BEYOND THE WALL
Our protagonist is a sweet little girl in a red dress with pigtails who, on a summer night, goes to ring her friend‘s doorbell to play together.
A series of hand-drawn panels with a child’s typical stylized touch present the background in the game’s introductory scenes, in which the girl and her friend make music and play outside.
As usual, the girl goes to call her friend to spend time together. However, although there is light in his room, no one comes to open the door.
The friend lives in a very tall and narrow house that resembles a lighthouse, with this small but visible light shining through the attic window, presumably where the boy has his room.
But, unlike other times, the little boy does not come out, and we are unsure whether this is because he does not want to or cannot. Our nice friend with pigtails decides to join him and find out what happened.
First, the girl climbs over the wall, and once inside the property, she finds herself crossing the garden that surrounds the house. Due to the dense vegetation and atmosphere, it almost appears to be a forest at first, but as you proceed, it begins to resemble more of a real garden, very lush and increasingly well-kept, until you reach the house.
The plot is straightforward and linear, as intended by Rocking Toy, but it is expertly crafted. It has coherence and structure despite the brevity and simplicity of its various elements. Narratively, it’s a very good story in its authenticity.
Our protagonist’s short adventure journey to her friend will undoubtedly be dotted with obstacles and dangers, such as poisonous snakes, giant caterpillars with a menacing attitude, carnivorous plants with big eyes that observe you, thorny bushes, and anything else that prevents the child from continuing.
At each level, we must face and solve an obstacle as well as a related puzzle in order to progress, but our little explorer is never discouraged.
A CLASSIC BUT PERFECT POINT AND CLICK
It’s a 2D point-and-click game, hand-drawn and digitally colored, with various focus points through which we must move our protagonist and interact with her in order to collect objects. These objects are used to help us solve the various puzzles that have been presented to us.
The puzzles can be quite complicated at times, and we can only try to solve them by interacting with all of the elements in the scene. These elements include both objects and characters, and each has a specific purpose.
Fortunately, we have clues in the form of drawings – always in a childlike style – that show us what to do but not how to move forward. We must figure out how by distinguishing the scene elements that are of interest to us for performing specific actions with a keen sense of observation.
The object distribution is very well done. They are visible, but you must sharpen your vision and wits. However, once all of the elements have been identified, solving the puzzle becomes relatively simple.
Undoubtedly, one must think outside the box and approach the game with the imagination and creativity of a child.
There are thirteen levels in total, each with an increasingly difficult puzzle as the elements to interact with and actions to perform increase. Simultaneously, it becomes easier because, as we become more familiar with the game mechanics, we learn to pay attention to details that may have previously escaped us.
The Rocking Toy team has done an excellent job in terms of graphics. The game looks great on mobile devices and monitors, but in my opinion, it is best expressed on smaller screens, even if spotting the details of interest is slightly more difficult. This emphasizes the graphics’ quality, as all elements are visible even on small screens.
The drawings and graphics in general are quite essential but very well-crafted, and it reminds me of the recent Children of Silentown, an Italian production led by artist Fraffrog, whose drawing style undoubtedly has an edge in terms of personality and creativity, without detracting from the excellent work of Rocking Toy’s artists, who have done an outstanding job despite having chosen a more naive style.
Given the complete absence of dialogue, I would like to extend additional appreciation to the sound department. The original soundtrack, composed to capture the atmosphere, as well as authentic sound effects such as the girl’s exclamations, rustling leaves, and so on, help create the right “magic” for each level and, most importantly, the right mood, allowing players to become even more in tune with the action and mindset of our young protagonist, who experiences everything with curiosity and wonder in her eyes.
The absence of dialogue strikes me as a very appropriate choice, allowing players to be sufficiently engaged solely through the sounds, music, and atmosphere. We all know how expensive and time-consuming voice acting can be, so Rocking Toy made a wise and well-thought-out decision that was executed flawlessly.
CONCLUSION OF THE STORY WITH SOME SPOILERS
Now that we’ve arrived at this point, I’d like to discuss the conclusion, which I believe contains the true meaning and theme of the game.
So, if you haven’t played Beyond the Wall yet and don’t want to ruin the ending, don’t read any further.
As our protagonist approaches the house, the “enemies” who are impeding her become more dangerous. The first is a garden gnome with a shovel who appears to want to hit her on the head violently, but the girl manages to drop a statue on him instead, destroying him.
What she discovers inside the building, however, is even more terrifying. Once inside the mysterious and strange house, the girl must avoid dark and unsettling presences that resemble evil and deformed ghosts.
This adventure, which combines reality and childlike fantasy, comes to an end when she takes an elevator to the top floor, where she finally finds the boy and must solve the final two puzzles. These are among the most difficult, but also the most enjoyable, in the game.
The girl’s friend is sitting at his desk, seemingly catatonic, staring blankly at a television that displays no image. The girl immediately attempts, but fails, to bring him back to his senses.
What should she do?
The most obvious solution appears to be to turn off the television. As a result of a series of events, including the use of fireworks to scare away the cat perched on the chimney, which prevents us from knocking down the antenna on the roof—the final part of this incredible journey to discover the mysteries of the world contained within a simple garden—we succeed in our endeavor.
When the television is turned off, the boy awakens, and the two resume playing, with him strumming his guitar and her laughing and joking with him, both sitting on the roof with the singed but unharmed cat.
What is the moral of this story? What exactly does this all mean? What is causing the boy to be “trapped” in this situation? At first, I thought he was a prisoner or, more realistically, that he had been grounded.
I want to highlight that the following is my personal interpretation, which does not necessarily imply that it is the one intended by the authors for their story.
Essentially, the boy is a “slave” to the television, which reminds me of something (see Little Nightmares 2, for those familiar with it).
I believe there is a not-so-subtle critique of the use of audiovisual media as children’s entertainment tools. Not by chance, the game demonstrates how much more adventurous and enjoyable direct outdoor experiences can be when discovering new and stimulating situations.
Rather than passive entertainment, the game emphasizes the importance of imagination, creativity, and hands-on exploration. Beyond the Wall, in this sense, serves as a reminder of the joys of play and connection that can be found outside of screens.
Playing outdoors, where one can imagine magical creatures as well as terrifying adventures, contrasts with solitary play or the passive experience of sitting in front of a television. This is a hot topic in today’s society, and not only do older generations believe that the latter option is harmful to children,
Those who experienced outdoor play with friends as children understand how stimulating it is and how it can sharpen one’s wit when, in the absence of an adult, they must solve practical problems using the resources and knowledge at their disposal. So, if a snake gets in our way, we can stomp on the ground until a bird notices it and grabs it, allowing us to pass.
When there is no way to play in a real garden—remember the recent lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic?—this is, in my opinion, a nearly perfect solution. This solution still allows for the development of ingenuity and the nurturing of imagination: video games.
“Beyond the Wall” becomes a metaphor for a return to nature, a break from a wall of self-imposed isolation, where passive consumption and a lack of real stimuli lead to a life devoid of adventure and joy.
In this way, the game not only promotes the value of outdoor experiences, but it also recognizes the potential of video games to foster creativity and problem-solving skills when real-life outdoor play is not possible. It encourages players to abandon their self-imposed isolation and rediscover the joys of adventure, connection, and imagination.
All of this is tempered by a touch of humor, which never hurts.
Beyond the Wall is a fun and stimulating video game that takes you back to your childhood and the sense of adventure that can come from the most commonplace things. It has well-executed graphics and an excellent decision to exclude dialogues, though some may find it a little too short. Personally, I believe the duration is appropriate, especially given how long it takes to solve the problems presented in certain sections.
The game is also suitable for children, which justifies its short length. After completing a level, players can pause in the next one, thanks to a well-measured automatic checkpoint system, allowing them to think about how to solve the puzzle without the risk of repeating the previous part.
You can find out more on Rocking Toy official website
Beyond the Wall
- Great technical level for a young indie team
- Interesting and well-executed graphics, both in 2D and animations
- Deep and thoughtful content
- Playtime may be too short
- A bit of gratuitous moralizing