With mental health becoming a more widely discussed issue, it was only a matter of time before games began incorporating them into narratives. In just the last year we’ve seen the highly acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice tackling the topic as well as Night in the Woods. This medium of entertainment has started to spread awareness for these issues, sometimes with more success than film or books have before.
Keeping this in mind, I was thrilled to hear about Anamorphine, developed and published by Artifact 5. The game was described as a “surreal introspection through mental illness,” and was presented as a look through the eyes of Tyler, a character whose own mind was against him. The premise was promising and, I felt, covered a topic that is important to spread awareness about. After the success of Hellblade last year, I was excited to jump into another great game that wasn’t afraid to cover the tough stuff. Unfortunately, what I found was less than what was promised.
Unique Art Style – Without a doubt, this game has a unique art style and approach to how to make art tell a story. Because the game is only telling its story through visuals, this art can really help elaborate on the emotions from each scene. Playing the game through Tyler’s eyes, you get to see things exactly as he does, with different pieces of your world opening as portals to other worlds or moments. Each scene has a specific color theme to add to the mood of the game, from a gray, dull scene without any music to a vibrant color scheme in the same room in a different moment where everything feels more positive. While the graphics are not fantastic in this game, they still compliment the art and mood to make the scene feel more personal and life-like.
Content Sensitivity – Before even starting the game you are provided with a web address to get help if you are suffering from mental health issues. Additionally, the game provides different play options depending on your sensitivity to topics. You are able to view a full content warning of topics covered in the game to know if there are parts you need to skip such as Tyler’s alcohol dependency issues or Elena’s battle with depression. There is also an option to play the game with “Skip Scene Option” which skips the more triggering scenes for you so that you are not even presented with the possibly disturbing imagery in the game. This is vital to games covering sensitive issues like Anamorphine does and is something I greatly appreciated.
Bugs – I found the scene transitions to be slow and bumpy as the game was catching up with itself. Where I would normally experience fluid movement, I was instead finding rough patches. Another problem was when I found myself, as Tyler, riding a bike into a sci-fi themed desert. I believe the game intends for you to ride through a portal, something that happens often in the game. However, the desert’s portal was unreachable due to an invisible wall and appears to be bugged.
Note: As of writing this piece it appears that this particular bug was just patched, however there may be similar bugs in the game.
Nauseating Controls – I try my best not to get on a soapbox about games and their accessibility for those with visual disabilities. However, after attempting to sit down and finish this game a few times, I have come to the conclusion that those with depth perception issues or those who are monocular will find this game virtually unplayable. As someone who is almost entirely monocular, I found myself becoming absolutely sick to my stomach every time I attempted to play the game. It is possible that this had nothing to do with visual issues, given that the controls were so sensitive regardless of sensitivity settings, and that every movement happened entirely too fast and loose. Whether turning corners, interacting with portals or even just walking in a straight line, I found myself becoming sick to my stomach by playing this game.
Overall, I really wanted to like Anamorphine. The art was beautiful, the concept was important and the storytelling was unique, but I can’t enjoy a game that I cannot play. It appears that Artifact 5 is listening to their bug reports and fixing the technical issues there, which is wonderful news. But unfortunately there is not a game out there worth needing to take a Dramamine for.
I am hopeful for some updates or patches that fix the sensitivity issues I have experienced, but given that this is also a VR game, I fear that it is intentionally designed to be this sensitive. Players beware, this game might not be for you.
Michelle reviewed Anamorphine on PS4 with a code provided by the developer.