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Viewfinder’s mind-bending photography puzzles are shaping up nicely

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Last year, student developer Matt Stark blew us away with a peek at an experimental new game that’d let you turn take photos of the world, print out a polaroid, then superimpose the snapshot back into the world. 

One year on, we’ve got a fresh look at the game with a new name (Viewfinder), and a better sense of how this wild technology might play out in a full-featured game. Once again, it’ll make more sense when you see it in action.

Stark has been busy since we last caught up with Viewfinder, acquiring a team of collaborators under the Robot Turtle umbrella. That includes some properly slick, The Witness-adjacent environmental art, which gives the polaroid effect so much more weight. He’s not just moving cubes and crates around anymore—he’s shifting entire buildings and streets.

Hi #PitchYaGame! We’re Robot Turtle, a UK team with global collaborators! 🥰Viewfinder is a mind-bending 1st person adventure game in which you can bring pictures to life and step into other worlds.Use your instant camera to reshape the world and uncover its mysteries! pic.twitter.com/vW6k0Zm888June 1, 2021

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Where once it simply seemed like a neat trick, we now also have a firm sense of how Viewfinder may play out as a proper puzzle game. We see the camera duplicate objects to solve puzzles, creating new maps to explore inside levels, and exploring spaces to line up fragments of a new frame. 

Viewfinder bears a lot of similarities with Valve’s long-rumoured “F-Stop”, a mechanic the studio was considering for a Portal prequel before ultimately canning it. F-Stop remained a tightly guarded secret until last January, when indie studio LunchHouse Software revealed the hows and whys of F-Stop with a YouTube series titled Exposure.

We’ve seen a few more takes on perspective-based puzzling since then with the likes of Superliminal and Maquette. Viewfinder might still be a ways out with no firm release planned, but I’m excited to one day step inside its picture-perfect puzzles.

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