There are plenty of games that deal with heavy subject matter; That Dragon, Cancer, and Flower (in a roundabout way), even Detroit: Become Human deals with some struggles about humanity. Anamorphine is a walking simulator that guides players through a series of memories from Tyler, as he looks back on the grief and torment of his wife after an accident.
Depression isn’t something most titles tend to examine, because depression is hard to explain. I personally know more than a few people who struggle with depression, and it isn’t ever easy for them to put into words how they are feeling and why they are feeling this way. Anamorphine does a pretty incredible job of letting the story unfold through Tyler’s memories of his wife. It’s never in your face, as his apartment subtly changes while exploring. Laps around the apartment examining objects important to Elena (Tyler’s wife) yield an apartment getting messier and messier as they lose the will to clean. A lack of dialogue in Anamorphine really forces players to focus on the world around them and analyze things instead of being spoon-fed feelings through a script.
Even though the entirety of Anamorphine features both Tyler and Elena, most areas feature Elena, but everything focuses on Tyler. The surreal twisting world convey Tyler’s feelings, even though Elena is the focus in the world. Literally, everything is about Elena, while figuratively and symbolically Anamorphine is about Tyler. There are several points in Anamorphine where Tyler delves into an abstract world that is almost alien in its representation. These abstract areas are where Anamorphine really shows off its metaphorical skills. The world twists and turns in a symbolic look at Tyler’s thoughts, and eventually bleeds over into his real world.
While I appreciate what Anamorphine is trying to accomplish, it’s hard to look past numerous glaring technical issues. Most of the chapters feature a couple of areas, and in between each area there are long load times. Stylistically, Anamorphine is a pretty striking game, but the visuals on display shouldn’t feel as taxing on Playstation 4 as it seems. Load times can be up to a couple of minutes between areas. On top of long load times, there is almost constant frame rate issues, stuttering, and even freezes that can last up to a few seconds. One in particular froze for so long (even though I was used to them at this point) that I though my PS4 Pro had completely frozen.
Technical issues were my biggest problem with Anamorphine. If the load times hadn’t been constantly interrupting my playthrough, I might have been able to look past the other technical issues. However, the constant breaks in the storytelling destroy the pacing for something so beautiful and surreal. Anamorphine isn’t a long title, I finished it in probably around 3 hours. The length wasn’t something I had complaints with, because as someone that also struggles with depression, it’s hard not to let the feelings that Anamorphine conveys hit close to home. But when I reached the ending, it felt like I had spent as much time on loading screens (obviously I didn’t, but it sure felt like I had) as I had actually learning about these two characters relationship.
Anamorphine has two endings available, but I’m not sure I have the stomach to handle another playthrough. While this may feel like a detractor, I’m actually counting this as a positive, because despite the technical flaws, I felt real emotional weight throughout. I got the “bad” ending, showcasing that no matter how someone copes with their world and surroundings, they might be left in the same exact spot. Without spoiling anything, the “bad” ending put Tyler directly where he started.
It’s hard not to talk negatively about Anamorphine because of the technical issues plaguing it, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it a couple days ago. It left me thinking about how differently people cope and think about the demons that help define them. It definitely isn’t without flaws, and it’s hard to recommend in its current state. However, this is a story that deals with tough subject matter with a lot of respect, and gives an abstract look at something that many people struggle with every day. A patch or two would really benefit Anamorphine, and it may be something I go back to when the time is right.
- Strong respect for the subject matter.
- An accurate behind the scenes look at someone struggling with depression.
- Lack of dialogue was a good choice.
- Lots of long load times.
- Constant framerate issues.
- Often freezes for seconds at a time.