Solve Puzzles, Learn A Language: Missing Translation


I’m polishing up my heavily-tarnished French lately as I plan to move to Paris, and I’m really enjoying rediscovering how the language works. All the little rules and exceptions are fiddly and frustrating, but I enjoy fitting these sounds and ideas together like tiny watch parts to create sentences that are sorta kinda functional oh gosh what if no one can understand me?

Missing Translation plans to teach its own language that’s far simpler, a visual language based on drawing lines across a nine-node grid. That’s not the main focus of the game – it’s a puzzler at heart – but if we want to, hey, we’ll get to converse with the locals in our strange new home.

Alpixel Games are dumping us into an odd new city, where our only hope of getting out involves solving puzzles. Missing Translation has three different types of puzzle, which seem to mostly involve shifting and rotating different types of blocks in different ways, but it’s the language I’m really keen on.

They’ve come up with something more than the usual character-replacement ‘languages’ or codes we tend to see in video games. We draw patterns into a grid a bit like a phone lockscreen, combining different lines and angles and inflections to create basic sentences. It sounds delightful. Read about how it all works here.

Alpixel plan to release Missing Translation for free around Christmas. You can help it through Steam Greenlight and follow its development on the TIGSource Forums, if you fancy.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    On learning French, in addition to duolingo, I’ve found this helpful: link to

    random assorted tips:

    People say “On” instead of “Nous” because they can’t be bothered with conjugations. ie “On va au cinema” rather than “Nous allons au cinema”.

    Be careful with pronouncing the last letter of words, since pronouncing say the t or n at the end means you’re saying the female version of the word or name. eg chat/chatte. (being an animator, I once used the phrase “looking for cat reference” in a meeting only to be told I probably was not looking for female cat reference)

    Also “verslan” (or verlan link to is a thing: meuf = femme, ouf = fou etc and probably other common words that you won’t even realize were derived from something else. While originally street slang, several words seem to have made it into common use, so if you ever hear anyone say something like “truc de ouf!” now you know.

    Anyway that’s from my limited experience having previously lived in France for a while as a non-French person. Maybe it helps.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I picked up Spiral (Engrenages) from the BBC because it’s a decent way to pick up slang, and is subtitled. Also French comics are pretty good because they have visual context. Paris is in that space where a lot of people will speak some English because it’s more cosmopolitan than the rest of France (or because half the people in the centre are American tourists or students), but you’ll still need French for administrative stuff and the like. The main stressful thing for me was just getting the fluency where I could understand what people were saying in real time, rather than having to stop and think.

      Talking about the word chat, I enjoyed that Orange were advertising a “chat version sexy”, which I presume meant instant messaging for sex people and not furries in particular.

    • Skhalt says:

      To add some more context to your cat anecdote and why people probably laughed at you, “chatte” can be a euphemism for “vagina” (the equivalent of “pussy” in English, basically).

      On a side note, I demand that Patrick Steward be flogged with stale baguettes as punishment for never pronouncing “Picard” correctly.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yes, you should be very careful in meetings when leaving people “le choix dans la date”.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Oh, they were nice enough to explain. I figured “female cat” largely implied the nature of the misunderstanding.

        On the flip side French people speaking English also leads to interesting things sometimes. For example, working on an FPS and, due to aforementioned dropping of last letters, a French colleague referring to the assault gun as “the asshole gun”. That’s still my favourite.

        [edit: @Gap Gen: You know I was not familiar with that particular expression but after some searching landed on a Wikipedia discussion about “contrep√®terie”. That was an amusing couple of minutes. Thanks]

  2. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Wait a minute, is that Graham? Has he been sucked through some sort of magic vortex into a game? I think we should be told.

  3. Gap Gen says:

    Some more tips for preparing to move to Paris:
    РPractice sleeping in a shoebox every night, then burning £25 pounds in the morning. This is assuming you actually find a flat and have the correct paperwork without someone else taking the place first, of course.
    – Ensure that everything outside your shoebox smells of urine. Doubly so in the summer.
    – Dine at the finest restaurants every night. This is to prepare you for the fact that when you get to Paris you won’t, because all the good restaurants are either hard to find or too expensive.
    – Before any social events, sit in a metal box and stare at your shoes for 45 minutes. If the event is near the rush hour, stand and stare at your shoes instead. Add an hour at random to simulate bomb threats.
    – Sneeze and cough continuously in preparation for being in a polluted city where people spit in the street and on metro platforms.
    Enjoy, and good luck!

    • Charles de Goal says:

      I hardly ever see people spitting in public in Paris. Perhaps you’re overly sensitive ? :-)
      Spitting was common in France in the 80s, not so much nowadays.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    By the way, sorry to the devs for hijacking the thread with unrelated things. Game looks interesting!