Mental health can be a tricky subject to tackle in a video game. What is the best way to show someone’s battle with mental illness? Will your representation be realistic or offend? Which disorder should you tackle, and what kind of story can you tell that will educate and inform your audience? Mental illness is difficult to understand, let alone create a gaming experience around the subject.
Not only do you need to research and carefully plan this type of game, but you need to keep your audience in mind. After all, scenes of emotional trauma may trigger feelings in someone who is watching and playing the game. In fact, Anamorphine has a warning at the very beginning of the game that shows that the subject matter may trigger feelings or symptoms. While it is important to reflect on how mental illness affects millions around the world, it is equally important to be considerate of your audience.
With this in mind, I dove into Anamorphine, curious about what the team at Artifact 5 had to say about mental illness. In my opinion, they took great care in telling a story from two perspectives. Not only do you see the effects of someone with mental illness, but you also see the perspective of someone who is on the outside looking in. Your character, Tyler, is married to a woman who suffers from depression.
Your wife, Elena, is a classic example of how mental illness can affect anyone. You see how talented Elena is through Tyler’s memories, and a first you wouldn’t expect her to have an illness. Artifact 5, through images and color, show you how her life changes when she suffers a tragic accident. This is done through her ever-changing hair color. You see moments of vibrant color, symbolizing happier moments in her life. Yet you also see dark blues, which shows her lowest lows. No dialogue is spoken between Tyler and Elena, so the imagery is key to telling a successful story.
Tyler’s journey is equally interesting. You see several instances of Tyler attempting to reach Elena, despite her depression and darkness. It’s difficult to watch at times, as you see (through more imagery) how Tyler seems to always be out of reach or shut out. I think we can all identify with Tyler and have experienced moments where we attempt to reach out to others with no avail. And the development team’s decision to make this a walking simulator allows you to focus on both of their stories, without worrying about puzzles or pushing specific buttons.
Anamorphine can be experienced in VR, which add another dimension of immersion in the story. It doesn’t feel gimmicky, but it also isn’t necessary to play the game. I just love that gamers have that option.
I wish I could write some more glowing praise for Anamorphine, but I need to bring up some technical issues that bring the game to a crawl. Load times are very long. There are frequent framerate drops, as well as jerky transitions between scenes. Movement controls work fine, but the framerate is the glaring issue for me. Luckily, the team will continue to patch and update in order to help the game run smoother. But for right now, it definitely takes your attention away from the main story.
Anamorphine is a very unique game, and I’m having a hard time developing a score. It’s an experience that gives you multiple views on mental health. It takes you on an emotional journey with a few happy moments sprinkled in with tragedy and heartache. I hate that the technical issues take you away from the entire experience, and if I gave it a score, then it would be low because of the technical issues. Instead of a score, I will instead recommend you take the 1.5 – 2 hours to experience the game for yourself.
I’ll end the review with this – mental illness is not something to joke around about. It affects countless people around the world, both young and old. If you ever have feelings of depression, or feelings of hopelessness, please consider reaching out for help. If you know someone who is experiencing mental health issues, remember that you can’t cure them, no matter what you do. But you can be there to support and love those who are struggling. Our world will be a better place if we look out for each other and support all who may suffer from mental illness.
Anamorphine is available now on Playstation 4 and PC.
Note: GameOctane editor Ryan Welch received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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