Now more than ever video games tackle topics which are present and occurring in our everyday lives. Mental health is an issue that has been covered thoughtfully and elegantly by a number of games in previous years. Anamorphine is a breath of fresh air into the established genre, but unfortunately crashes prevent it at becoming a success.
This indie title follows a couple whose lives are torn apart after a tragic accident. You play as Tyler as he revisits his memories and relives moments from his wife Elena’s depression. The decline in her mental health swells after the accident prevents her from playing her beloved cello, her source of livelihood and one true passion.
Anamorphine begins in years prior to the accident when Tyler and Elena initially move in together, this indie is almost completely silent leaving the player to carve out their own interpretation of the story. Environments loop back onto each other with doors leading to rooms previously explored with new subtle changes. These alterations to familiar settings effectively narrate the game without a spoken or written dialogue. Settings move quite frequently from public spaces to the confines of the home and rapidly travelling to and from these is one of Anamorphine’s unique and most memorable aspects.
When a scene concludes the camera will pan out, showing a still image of the scene you were just playing out moments ago. This shift in environment keeps the game moving forward smoothly while conveying the difference between past and present memories. The relentlessly between memories signals the pressures of a non-stop mind wrought with anxiety and worries, similar to Elena. The story is tragically sad, and this moving indie title should be credited for its approach of subtly introducing signs of depression under the players nose. Look closely enough and you’ll see empty bottles piling underneath the kitchen table, plants which were once thriving are now wilted and most prominently, Elena’s bright white hair slowly looses its spark as she descends into a shell of her former self.
The game unravels through Tyler’s attempts to restore life to Elena, in a certain scene you find yourself in the middle of an impressive colourful orchard. Everything here seems beautiful but on further inspection giant flowers which are the main set piece in this environment remain stunted as seedlings. Opening these flower buds may seem like an idle task to fill the content of the game but when explored in a metaphorical sense this scene can be conveyed as Tyler’s constant attempts to bring happiness back to Elena, even by small acts of kindness by gifting her flowers.
The soundtrack is wonderfully moving and fitting for the rise and fall of emotions throughout Anamorphine. Paired with the impressive visuals the game is a beauty to behold, there is however one glaring negative which halts the impressive and powerful message of the game.
Anamorphine is prone to both lag and glitches which interrupt the flowing nature of the game, between each chapter the player returns to a central hub where key memories of Elena reside. Upon entering this hub the game freezes for a moment while the next chapter loads. While this only a minor set-back, the lag halts a game which otherwise is beautifully carried by the momentum of its story.
Towards the finale the game’s lags become more and more noticeable, fragmenting the structure of the game and leaving you hesitant to progress should your sudden movement cause the game to crash. As Anamorphine nears its conclusion paths become more vague and you’ll wander around attempting to trigger the next scene whilst dredging through yet another cycling or hospital scene. The game is powerful but overused components and lack of initiative causes you to slowly loose interest as everything comes to a close.
Overall the game encompasses a powerful message told in a powerful way. Everything is thoughtfully implemented, faded colours show signs of depression and in Anamorphine small and subtle acts lead to bigger things. Anamorphine and its core message made me wonder. However, when I look back on this game I will remember the lags, repetition hidden amidst Elena’s powerful story.
*early review copy given in exchange for a honest review*