Depression is a rather complex theme to tackle in video games. Therefore, it’s fairly rare, if not non-existent, that it would be a central motif in the walking simulator genre. Anamorphine is such a game, and revolves around mature and rather dark themes, such as alcoholism, drugs, and suicide.
The game follows Elena from the perspective of her husband Tyler, as you seemingly explore his subconscious to replay memories of the past. The plot starts off lighthearted, but slowly progresses into a more darker tone, as the events leading into the cause of the characters’ depression approach. This essentially comprises the first half of the game.
The second half deals with how the couple try to tackle their issues, all the while trying to keep themselves from completely breaking down. Towards the ending, the game branches off into two endings: the light and the dark routes.
While the lead up to the pivotal moment is fairly well executed, the impact of the defining moment is rather weak. The player isn’t given any opportunity to explore some of the hidden hints that provide insight into the character’s mental state. Instead, we are treated to some rather obvious signs and are left to infer the rest on our own.
Tyler rarely does anything in the game. Aside from a few minor actions, it seems that he simply observes the events unfold. In addition, one of the endings is rather vague.
The gameplay is practically non-existent, as it’s just a simple walking simulator with very minor interactions required. Aside from walking and looking around, the player can approach objects, which rearrange themselves on contact. Rather than a required feature, this simply feels like a needless way to prolong the game, since some of these objects require a fair bit of searching. There are a few instances where you are able to ride a bicycle, but it does nothing to make the gameplay enjoyable.
The branching route relies solely on a single choice, and as such, it doesn’t require any effort on the part of the player. Additionally, the lack of a manual save option is quite a hindrance.
Character design and Artwork
The only characters that exhibit any features are Tyler and Elena. Aside from these two, all the others are literally designed as mannequins. This polarizes the perspective of the player: on one hand, it factors in very well into the theme of depression. On the other hand, it comes in too early to have any impact, and thus feels like they were overlooked in favor of the protagonists.
The background art is fairly ordinary, aside from the “forest” scenes, which contribute to a mystical and wondrous atmosphere, and is very appealing to observe.
This is Anamorphine’s strongest point. Elena is a cellist, and the soundtrack of the game heavily revolves around the cello. The music accommodates the changes in the atmosphere, and adapts quite well to the tone of the game, ranging from mellow to dark and eerie.
In terms of walking simulators, Anamorphine is nothing extraordinary. Even when it barely clocks in at two hours, the game feels rather prolonged and offers no incentive for replayability. The lack of choices to affect the character actions makes it rather predictable.
While the lack of dialogue does contribute to the game’s eerie nature, completely devoiding the game of dialogue reduces its immersiveness.