New Game Review

Review – Anamorphine (PS4)

Face your past or be consumed by it.

Artifact 5’s inaugural game, Anamorphine, is “a surreal adventure of rendered emotions.” Like a handful of other games out there, Anamorphine braves to tackle important social issues. Titles such as Papo y Yo, Unravel, This War of Mine, Figment, and The Dragon Cancer are meant to invoke an emotional response and make you think about deeper issues. Gameplay in these sort of games is less the focus, but rather more the vehicle.

You follow along through the subconscious eyes of Tyler, replaying key points in the lives of him and his wife, Elena. Making your way through labyrinthian corridors and rooms that overlap and fold into each other, you watch as your wife loses the ability to do what she loves most. See how an accident takes away her livelihood as a cellist and leads to her slow slip into bouts of depression. Witness her abusing alcohol and medication more and more the further she falls into despair, leaving you with no option other than to suffer with her.

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That’s… a lot of beer.

Without apology, Anamorphine is a walking sim. The only interaction you have with the environment is to walk up close to a key object or memory. However, this is intentional and by design due to how it plays into the narrative. There is little control you have. You feel as if you can not affect anything and can only watch from a distance. It reflects feeling powerless to help in their struggle. That is the point of Anamorphine. All you can do is watch helplessly.

Winding through an endless loop of your apartment and beautiful surreal dreamlike settings, you slowly see the deterioration of Elena, the person whom means the most in your life. The subconscious manifested environments becoming more and more damaged, cluttered and fragmented as you are forced to face and realize the depths of her depression.

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Just another rift in the wall.

While the world and story telling are beautiful and creative and the theme is well handled, the overall experience is held back by a couple things. Loading screens would completely derail any momentum that Anamorphine’s story telling would create. I can’t tell you the last AAA game I played where 33% of my time was spent in loading screens, but this seemed to be just the case. For a game that is all about repetition of environment and minimalist graphics, it soon became absurd.

And speaking of the minimalist game design, yes it is beautiful at moments. However, some environments felt overwhelmingly destitute. This went beyond the feeling that it was intentional to show a once rich soul now vacuous and empty. Instead I just got the overall sense of unfinished work.

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Depths of beauty.

With a play through clocking in at between 60 to 90 minutes, none of the issues are major enough to not experience the beautiful and tragic story. There is a “good” and “bad” ending to feign some kind of replay ability, but I was happy with the ending I got and the story being told. Anamorphine is also playable in VR, but the time I spent in it did nothing to really add or detract from the experience, just a different way of hearing the story.

Anamorphine is an emotional tale held back by technical shortcomings. It conveys addiction and mental illness with a beautiful grace and care. It delves into the danger and destruction of both depression and denial. Forced to face your past or be consumed by it.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Beautiful minimalistic style that can come off as unfinished at times.

Gameplay: 8.0

A non-narrative walking sim that adds to the understanding of how it is to care for someone with a mental illness.

Sound: 7.5

Just as with the art direction, less is more with its minimalistic approach.

Fun Factor: 6.0

A pre-alpha feel at certain points and an obscene amount of loading times take away from a beautiful tale.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Anamorphine is available now on PS4, PSVR, Xbox One, PC.

A copy of Anamorphine was provided by the publisher

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