Tuesday, January 29

Review: Drowning [Nintendo Switch eShop]

With an abundance of titles out there on the eShop and in the indie space in general we’ve seen a slow move away from the traditional or sometimes even things you could call “games” in any way at all. Between interactive novels and some other forms we’ve seen the doors opened to all manner of experiences. Possibly offering up something least resembling a game I’ve played, Drowning pushes in a direction I’ve not seen before, sort of creating a walkthrough story.

What makes Drowning notable is the subject matter, which is depression. Not saddled with it myself but living in a household with multiple people who are challenged by it from a distance I’ll vouch for it trying to represent the topic with some love and authenticity. I could see where for the right people this could provide a benefit, whether validating the feelings people have as being understood, offering people without it some perspective, or perhaps even helping to point out to someone they may be suffering from it without having realized it.

The essence of the “gameplay” is literally walking through the story, moving slowly through a winding path, surrounded by the tranquility of nature, and little by little seeing the story revealed in print as you go. To be plain this isn’t like a walking simulator or other forms, there’s no real interaction or other elements. With the exception of a few alternative paths you can take at specific points that will result in different endings (I suppose replayability is nice but the pacing is slow enough that repeating through quite a bit of it would probably be tedious) there’s nothing to do but always walk forward and read.

Scoring something like this is essentially a nightmare. It absolutely isn’t a game, but it also wasn’t intended to be one. While I appreciate the attempt to shed light on the subject matter I actually question whether this is the best way to reach out to people. The story itself would be quicker and easier to consume in other more efficient ways and I’m not sure what the slow pace and environment are specifically adding to the conversation. I suppose the goal is to reach out and try to share the message with people however you can but we’ve seen games like Celeste manage to tell a story with meaning about personal struggle while paired with compelling gameplay. With the experience being so bland (though perhaps somewhat appropriate to the subject matter in a way) I’m just not sure how many people this will be able to reach.

Score: 5

  • It tackles depression with a story steeped in some authenticity
  • A few branching options make for repeated playthrough opportunities to see different outcomes

  • In no way can this be considered a game
  • If the goal is to reach a wide audience I’m not sure this is the best way to accomplish that goal