Drowning review for PS Vita, PS4, Switch

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: PolygonalWolf
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

My problem with many games that purport to show what it?s like to live with depression is that they don?t really do what they claim to do. I?ve been fortunate enough to never suffer from such a debilitating illness, so my perspective is from the outside looking in, but when I?ve played games like Stay or Actual Sunlight, I?ve never gotten the sense I was seeing the world through the eyes of someone battling depression. Rather, they just felt like I was playing games where the main characters were deeply unpleasant people, who may have been depressed, but who may also have been misanthropic.

This is why a game like Drowning feels sort of like a breath of fresh air…at least, as much as that term can apply when you?re talking about a game where the main character is suicidal. It does what it sets out to do: show what it?s like to live with depression.

It achieves this by giving the main character?s depression a voice — literally. The whole game consists of one character walking through the outdoors, talking about how depression weighed on him, with his depression occasionally responding. As gameplay goes, it?s not exactly the most interesting thing in the world since all you?re doing is walking forward (unless you want to take a few very short detours in order to pick up an easy Platinum), but from the perspective of someone who?s very much on the outside, it explains the feeling so much better than any number of games where characters lash out for unexplained reasons.

Admittedly, there are one or two odd points along the way. I won?t spoil anything, but the tone in the very last chapter feels kind of off, particularly when it comes to what depression has to say.

Still, that?s not enough to spoil an otherwise fantastic experience. Drowning shows that if you want to convey something as deeply personal as experiencing depression, you do so by making a game that feels deeply personal. It may not always be comfortable to sit through, but it draws you in and makes you care about its main character in a way that few other games can match.

Sometimes You provided us with a Drowning PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: A-