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

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.

See more

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.

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.