Review – Drowning

Drowning is a game about depression. I don’t need to sugarcoat it. I feel like the best way to start off this review is by alerting that this is definitely not a game for those unwilling to understand the pysche of someone who suffers from a mental condition.

Drowning was created by just one developer and it shows his own personal story regarding finding out about depression back in his high school days. It shows how that condition basically acted like a little devil living alongside him and his struggles to cope with that demon. For that, I have to thank the creator of the game for sharing his life story with me and many others. I know how hard it is to talk about something so personal like depression and how the simple fact that other people listen to you and reply with an “I understand, I’ve been through that too” can make all the difference on one person’s peace of mind.

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This is like old school Runescape, just without anything that made that game charming.

With that being said, this is still a video game, an interactive piece of entertainment, and this site reviews video games as they should be reviewed. This is where the problem lies. I love that Drowning exists, I love its message, but this is most certainly not a good video game.

Drowning is, at its core, the most basic type of walking simulator one can imagine. The entire gameplay is comprised of one gigantic stroll through the woods, going from point A until you reach the end credits at point B. All you can do is walk very slowly while the game literally types out its story in front of you. This isn’t even the kind of walking simulator full of audiologs or inner monologues such as Gone Home: literally all you do is walk and read. This barely qualifies as a video game due to how little interaction is present in here.

The game is a technical mess. I am aware that the Vita isn’t a powerhouse, but this is one ugly sucka. This is one of the most visually barebones games I’ve seen in years. The developer claims that this is an intentional low-poly approach, but I can’t agree. Horizon Chase Turbo is a good example of a low-poly game that looks decent. Pop-ins are frequent. This game looks like a bad homebrew made for the Atari Jaguar, devoid of shadows, lighting effects, and featuring a terrible framerate to make the lethargic pace of the game even more unbearable. May I remind you, the game is a bit more than an hour long, yet it feels much longer than that.

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The message is fine, but the developer should have hired an editor before releasing the game.

The writing isn’t good, either. Sure, the message that the developer is trying to send is great, but for goodness sake, you should have hired someone to double check your spelling. The game is filled with typos that ruin all sense of immersion. There were moments in which I started giggling due to how amateurish they looked. I giggled in a game about depression. I’m going to hell for this.

Drowning was a different experience. I don’t hate it. To be fair, I’m glad I played it, and I commend the developer for pouring his heart and soul into this project. I just don’t think that this should have been a piece of interactive “entertainment”. This a poorly coded and poorly written game with glitches that completely ruin whatever kind of immersion it was trying to provide to the player. The message the developer tried to send is beautiful, but it would have been more powerful and digestible as a short film, not a game.

 

Graphics: 2.0

The low-poly aesthetic in this game doesn’t look pleasing to the eyes and neither does the complete lack of lighting or shadow effects. The game also suffers from a terrible framerate.

Gameplay: 1.5

All you do is walk. Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery slowly. The terrible framerate doesn’t help either.

Sound: 8.0

A small but effective collection of calm and soothing piano ballads to accompany you during your stroll through the forest.

Fun Factor: 3.0

The game sends a powerful and very personal message about depression and that is commendable. Sadly, I don’t see the point for it to be a game to begin with, as there is almost no interactivity in here.

Final Verdict: 3.0

Drowning is available now on PS4, PS Vita, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS Vita.

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