Anamorphine PC Review

Anamorphine is a short, surreal journey through mental decline that fails to engage consistently.

By Woozie, Posted 31 Jul 2018

After it shows its content warning, given how it deals with sensitive themes such as depression and alcohol consumption, Anamorphine throws you into its world without any form of ceremony or introduction. It’s a story of trauma and one’s struggle in dealing with it that moves from scene to scene a bit too quickly and never truly allows itself to settle in.

In Anamorphine, you’re reliving portions of Tyler’s life alongside his significant other, Elena, through sequences of walking and riding bikes.  The two don’t really differ mechanically, since there’s no way of interacting with the environment aside from looking at glowing objects, only to have them shift into place. There’s a lot of walking to be done through tight interiors and open areas that feel especially barren, both being unaided by the game’s mostly pedestrian visuals. After one or more sequences, you’re returned to a surreal hub area of sorts from which you enter a portal to yet another with only tenuous links between them. Anamorphine uses perspective shifts to some effect, opening doors to other realms through certain objects or framing certain moments that constitute Tyler’s reality as paintings in an instant. The latter is a way of suggesting that what was just witnessed lived, in fact, in the realm of memory. It’s not entirely ineffectual, but as they’re never properly introduced or developed as characters, getting invested in Tyler and Elena’s struggles is difficult.
 

Anamorphine, PC, Review, Screenshot


There’s neither dialogue nor writing to back up the visuals, which only impress in certain moments when things step into surreal territory. This leaves Anamorphine with very little to create a connection between the characters themselves, or the characters and the player. There’s an attempt to depersonalize others by rendering them as grey faceless mannequins, whereas Elena has her own model with hair that glows and shifts colors following her mood. While this is clearly meant to emphasize her importance to Tyler, whom we play as but only see in pictures, in practice, she ends up feeling just like a prettier version of those grey faceless mannequins for the most part.

You learn a few things about her – enough to help with setting up the trauma that follows – but she never gets close to being a fully fleshed character, being reduced to briefly telegraphed scenes that constitute her downward spiral. Anamorphine isolates the moments that derail the couple’s life but without building up a sense of familiarity, without properly showcasing their relationship. Then, it also transitions between these moments in a very brusque fashion, rarely letting anything settle in. While this might be an attempt to present how Tyler’s mind fails to focus and interpret events properly under immense strain, its execution here does not make for effective storytelling.
 

Anamorphine, PC, Review, Screenshot


Most of its levels are linear, but Anamorphine does have rooms that loop forever unless you turn and walk the other way. Then, some paths only loop up to a point which does create some confusion in navigating two-or-so of its levels. The story is told through mostly static scenes involving Elena, with the occasional odd event, like having bottles unnaturally floating in front of the TV. The problem with these is that they lack punch, often coming out of nowhere, and rely too much on the player piecing things together. Unimpressive assets and stiff models simply placed on a chair, in a hospital bed or moving from one place to another only manage to feel like dry attempts at building up a narrative. Anamorphine is obviously built on a budget, but even so, all these elements, alongside low quality animations, make it hard to see Elena as a human being and truly immerse oneself or connect to Tyler’s unfortunate journey.

In truth, there is some good use of visual metaphors signaling how someone with depression closes themselves off from others, and how one’s mental state decays when faced with trauma. These good moments are few and mostly clumped together in the game’s final moments, when things start to ramp up. Ultimately, however, Anamorphine fails to engage consistently and doesn’t do too good a job of relaying its serious subject matter properly. It feels like a slideshow someone quickly goes through expecting deep investment from the person watching. The title tries to hint at despair and pain but does so fleetingly and without a more cohesive way of linking events, or support from other means of telling a story, its environmental storytelling falls flat on its face. At the end of the two hours spent with the game, Anamorphine left me with only a few striking images and a forgettable experience.
 

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Anamorphine

50/100

Platform(s): PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Artifact 5
Developer(s): Artifact 5
Genres: Adventure, Walking Simulator
Themes: Mental Health, Trauma
Release Date: 2018-07-31

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