If you have played a good range of games, you will know that different genres and developers take various approaches to how they allow the player to progress and discover a story. Depending on the formula you may be given lengthy fleshed out cutscenes to enjoy, other times you may be fully interaction with dialogue and conversations, making decisions that ultimately have an impact on how your story unfolds and sometimes, you are just left to it.
That is what The Working Parts have done with their mystery adventure, They Breathe. Opting to provide no insight into the plot and purpose of the game, they boldly drop us, the player, in at the deep end, quite literally, as They Breathe is a game about taking control of a Frog, descending through a flooded forest and discovering the mystery of its ecosystem and the creatures that dwell below.
Simplistic in its design, in every way.
It takes mere moments to play around with the controls and get to grips with the basics of swimming, dashing and collecting air bubbles to keep you sustained as you swim deeper into the dark depths that become progressively haunting and deceptively disturbing the further you go. As you progress you will soon find you are not the only one that inhabits this watery wasteland, but strange creatures lurk below, figuring out their true nature and how to handle each encounter will be strictly trial and error. Most are hostile but not all are what they seem.
One key example of this is what I perceived to be some kind of swimming moose (you can’t say that’s not what it looks like) which appeared frequently allowing me to see how it interacted with the surroundings, how it interacted with other creatures and most importantly how it interacted with me, thus forming a strategy for dealing with them. But later on, I discovered that this creature was not what I thought it was which left me to feel a bit guilty for not taking a different action.
This may all sound a bit cryptic but to explain in detail my perception of They Breathe would not do the title justice as it is an experience best enjoyed with as little insight or understanding as possible so each player can discover things in their own way and their own time. They Breathe is not a lengthy game, depending on your play style it shouldn’t take you longer than thirty to forty minutes to reach the conclusion, but the experience itself is very unique and one that I found both engrossing and creepy.
This isn’t a horror title by any means.
but the combination of hand-drawn art that reminded me of Roman Dirge’s finest work, the dark and moody setting, the lack of hand-holding or context and the creepy sound effects really drive a ton of atmosphere with a heavy sense of foreboding throughout the experience. With simplicity being the order of the day, it’s safe to say I came across no performance issues with very little in the way of loading, I just chose to play solo, though you can play local co-op if you choose, and I was straight into the action. Though the experience is a short one you can save at any point so there is no need to worry about trying to reach the end in one hit.
They Breathe originally came out in 2014 but I am glad it has been given new life on the Nintendo Switch as it really is a unique experience. Though short, it is not asking top dollar, you can pick it up for £3.59 or $3.99 though it is likely to be a good one to find in the sales down the line. It’s hard to say what the intended audience is but for fans of mystery and creepy things in general, this is certainly a winner.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 29/07/2020
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: Adventure, Action
Developer: The Working Parts
Publisher: The Working Parts
Download link: eShop