Viewfinder: the must-play mind-melting photography puzzle videogame

Viewfinder videogame – using an instant camera to solve a puzzle
(Image credit: Sad Owl Studios • Thunderful Publishing)

Viewfinder is the recently released 3D puzzle platform videogame from Sad Owl Studios, published by Thunderful, for PlayStation 5 and PC. It has a similar theme to Inception-style physics games like Portal, while using perspective tricks that will feel familiar to anyone that has played games like Superliminal. However, it manages to feel fresh and utterly unlike anything I've ever played before. 

• These are the best photography videogames across all genres

At its core, Viewfinder is a puzzle game where to complete each level you'll need to reach a teleporter to advance to the next section. To do so you'll pick up various photos, and later an instant camera to take your own snaps. These can then be carefully repositioned in the level to bend space and time to your will. 

If there's a gap in the level that you're struggling to traverse, for example, take a photo of a bridge and place it over the gap and watch the pixels become replaced with those in the photo – as a 2D print is transformed into three-dimensional space (as in the GIF at the top of this page). It’s a difficult concept to explain, so be sure to watch the trailer below to see how it all works in action:

The fun comes from how creative you can get with your solutions. While in the early levels your solutions are restricted to photos and artwork that you’ll find lying around, later on you’ll pick up an instant camera, (it’s unbranded but looks suspiciously like an old-school Polaroid), so you can take your own photos and insert them into the levels.

You’ll usually only have a few frames of instant film to play with, so you need to make them count. Get creative with what you take a picture of, the perspective, and whether or not to rotate the image when you come to place it back in the scene.

The level design is varied and constantly introduces new mechanics such as photocopiers, battery generators, or timers that keep the game feeling fresh while adding a new challenge at the same time, making it a great mental workout.

Use the power of your camera to make impassable areas passable!  (Image credit: Sad Owl Studios • Thunderful Publishing)

There are five main hub worlds to explore that get progressively more challenging. The main storyline took about 5-6 hours to complete, but factor in all the additional content to 100% the game and unlock all of the achievements and it was probably more like 10 hours all in – though being an avid fan of both puzzles and photography, perhaps I'm at an unfair advantage.

It was, however, the optional challenges that gave me the biggest headaches. While I did eventually figure out the solution to most of them after several attempts, there was one level near the end that did completely stump me – and when I looked up the solution, you can imagine I did the biggest facepalm. That said, the difficulty overall was nicely paced and offered a fun, rather than frustrating challenge.

Viewfinder is unlike anything else I’ve ever played. It feels new, exciting, challenging and it’s a joy to get sucked into its super-saturated worlds. If you love both photography and puzzle games in equal measure don’t pass this one by; it’s available now for $24.99 / £19.99 / AU$37.95 on PS5 and PC (Steam).

(Image credit: Sad Owl Studios • Thunderful Publishing)

Why not also check out the best desktop computers for photo editing as well as how to take photos in videogames.

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Dan Mold
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, Dan also brings his technical wizardry and editing skills to Digital Camera World. He has been writing about all aspects of photography for over 10 years, having previously served as technical writer and technical editor for Practical Photography magazine, as well as Photoshop editor on Digital Photo

Dan is an Adobe-certified Photoshop guru, making him officially a beast at post-processing – so he’s the perfect person to share tips and tricks both in-camera and in post. Able to shoot all genres, Dan provides news, techniques and tutorials on everything from portraits and landscapes to macro and wildlife, helping photographers get the most out of their cameras, lenses, filters, lighting, tripods, and, of course, editing software.