My brain is at a constant war with itself. My autism means I like order, patterns and just overall structure. My depression means I am prone to depressive episodes and in these episodes, my life kind of falls into a mess before my eyes. Whereas, my autism means that experiencing something that has hypnotic colours and an order to the chaos makes my brain happy. These two things exist together in my head but not very well. So when a game comes along that caters to both sides of my warring psyche, it’s something special. 

Melatonin is a rhythm game. Ok, hear me out. If ‘rhythm’ has made you want to run a mile, I understand because I originally felt the same. I have about as much rhythm as a shoe banging about in the tumble dryer. However, there are many options you can choose within Melatonin that will assist you so you can enjoy the experience without wanting to rage quit. Developed by Half Asleep, Melatonin is the combination of when dreams and reality meet by using beautiful pastel hand-drawn art and extremely catchy music to tell the story. Using on screen prompts and sound cues, the aim of the game is to keep the rhythm as you go through a series of tasks. Tasks that include everything from excessive shopping to watering the garden. 

You play as a person desperate to escape reality

Each level requires you to do a practice version first, in order to unlock the score version and then the hard mode. The practice version acts as a tutorial, showing you how each prompt will work as well as when to activate it based on the beat. However, once you go into the scored mode, the on-screen prompts are taken away and you must rely on your rhythm. If this sounds daunting, do not worry though! Accessibility options not only allow you to adjust ping in case the game is registering your inputs too fast or slow, but it also has an option that allows you to keep the on-screen prompts active throughout the game. As I stated earlier, I have no rhythm whatsoever but with a few practice runs, I was able to tackle both the scored and hard versions of each level so there’s hope for everybody. 

 

Melatonin takes place across four nights and one morning. The reason the game spoke to me as a person with depression is that our main character is going through all the signs of a depressive episode throughout this time span. You find them sitting in front of the television or trying to do work and failing, eventually just giving into the sleep that feels like the only escape. It is in these dreams that the levels begin, with over twenty different puzzles to master. With only the space and arrow keys to help you, you must master the beat as we take a journey through the recesses of our character’s mind. 

Make stress even harder with various difficultly modes

What begins as dreams about harmless things such as eating burgers and shopping slowly turns into the more worrying side of life – stress, the past, the future. We follow the unnamed character as they find the beauty in tending to a garden but also the stress they experience at work as well as the desires they hold within. Melatonin is essentially a very human game. We all know the struggles of battling with our own heads, of trying to find a balance between the goodness in the world and the battles we fight along the way. This game is a reminder of that but it does so in a light and heartfelt way. 

The end level when our character wakes up to the early morning sun shining through the room, is a culmination of all the levels combined. You scan shopping, you play video games, you feel burnt out at work, you burn photos of the past, you work out, you browse social media. These scenes flash by, accompanied by hopeful music and therefore a reminder that there is beauty in all of these things, the little things that often go unnoticed and unappreciated. My finger tapping on the space key and my head bobbing to the music faded into the background as the bright colours flashed across my screen and I felt hope. Most importantly, I felt the sunlight shining through the window too.

 

Learn the levels with practice modes

 

Angharad played Melatonin on PC with her own copy. Melatoninis also available on Nintendo Switch.

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