Brave and inventive in its approach, Anamorphine illustrates a powerful story through the eyes of a young man, Tyler, and his painful memories of watching his wife Elena lose her livelihood and hope after a life-changing incident. Touching on the difficult subject of mental health and depression, Artifact 5 presents to us a bold interpretation of an individual’s mind when seeing the one they love struggle. We walk through this narrative from Tyler’s point of view in first-person, revisiting memories that are dreamlike and make little sense. Within these fragments, he remembers his past life with Elena, and how it feels to watch his loved one smile, laugh, cry, and suffer.
Due to the sensitive nature of the game, it starts off with a warning page which gives us the option of skipping scenes that may be uncomfortable. From this warning alone, it is without a doubt that Artifact 5 is trying to show us all aspects of what mental health and illness can be like. They do not shy away from reality and images that may be disturbing, and instead give us a choice as to how much we are willing to see. No matter which option you select, Anamorphine will still walk you through the high and low points in Tyler’s life, illustrating his past in a beautiful and artistic way and enabling you to learn from the experience.
A Dark But Compelling Journey
Anamorphine is quite short and can be completed within a couple of hours, and the experience is much like watching a masterpiece rather than playing a game. With no dialogue or controls, we as players are only supposed to either explore open lands or walk down determined roads, listening to background sounds and noises while trying to figure out what is going on. Accompanied by string music, which fits in with the storyline of Elena’s career and progression as a cellist, we become more emotionally tied to certain moments of the game.
The scenery and experiences are symbolic of the characters’ interactions and emotions, and the seemingly endless rooms capture Tyler’s loss of direction and normalcy in his life. Somewhat suffocated by convoluted hallways and twisted staircases, we have no choice but to keep going through Tyler’s fragmented memories one at a time. The imagery is strong, dark, eerie, and sometimes terrifying; the game shows us how a simple life can turn upside down in ways unimaginable.
There are two endings that this game can take – one is the light ending, and one is the dark ending. In my honest opinion, being able to have a “good end” really relieved me as some parts of the game got a little heavy for my liking. It became very real and very scary, yet I wanted to keep understanding Tyler’s trauma and Elena’s story. Having the light ending also reminded me that there is hope – something I had forgotten about as I got lost in the experience.
Some Tragic Flaws
While Anamorphine has a captivating storyline, it unfortunately gets a little lost due to performance issues within the game. There is definitely room for improvement, as it currently has long loading screens, rough transitions, and sometimes freezes in the middle of my walk. This took away from the experience by creating a certain frustration that was not meant to be there. Movement in the game was also slightly nauseating, but this is coming from someone who gets motion sickness. Anamorphine is ambitious in what it wants us to see, but it still has some areas that needs to be improved in order for us to fully enjoy the game. However, its overall narrative is memorable, as its storytelling and metaphors are extremely powerful.
Anamorphine is a beautiful narrative similar to a movie. Despite it being a game, it is not necessarily entertaining or fun, and I don’t think it chooses to be. Artifact 5 creatively uses the gaming technology as a way to present a story in a visual manner. It is impressive and well developed, with characters you grow to understand and empathize with. While there are issues with the performance of the game, there is definitely room for growth and development for an even better experience.
** A PS4 game code was provided by the publisher **
- Unique way of story-telling
- Artistic yet realistic narrative
- Engaging characters
- Lag, choppy transitions disrupt story
- Long load screens