Anamorphine takes players to a virtual reality that is a long, long way from the real world. It bears a resemblance to reality, but it is constantly shifting and contorting. Twisting as it bends to the shape of its main character’s unpleasant, sad memories. As an exploration of buried memories, it will take players to places that resemble the real world, but are shaped by depression, sorrow, and pain.
Something bad has happened to Tyler—something he wants to forget. That isn’t immediately clear in the game as he goes through his memories, bringing the player along with him. Players will see Tyler’s wife playing her cello around Tyler’s home. He’ll see her playing up on the stage. He’ll walk through the place they’ve built to live in together.
Players will witness all of this for themselves as they wander Tyler’s home in VR. It feels like a warm, welcoming place, filled with soothing colours and a calming normalcy. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and the fixtures all give the player a sense that this is just a plain old home, and with the notes of his wife’s cello floating through it, it feels comfortable and intimate. It feels like they’re visiting a place of joy.
It’s not long before that sense of happiness begins to erode, and reality begins to fragment. Doors don’t always just lead to other rooms. A turned corner can have the player walking onto a stage, applause thundering. A hole in reality can open to lush gardens of colourful flowers spilling out onto moonlight landscapes. A doorway will drop the player into a bleak landscape filled with strange objects and pale grey pits. Turning your back on something for a moment can find the world becoming dark and threatening. Reality isn’t quite right in the world of Anamorphine, and after making the player comfortable, the developers quickly set out to make them uncomfortable.
It’s an intriguing shift to watch, first with swings in colour and tone, and then with changes to all of reality itself. Anamorphine soon takes players to distorted worlds that draw upon reality, but bend it and reshape it. Walls lined with desks and tables tower far above the player. Snow that once decorated a Christmas tree drifts sideways across the environment. Bottles clatter across the floor, shaping into a doorway for the player to pass through into a boiling desert.
Anamorphine has set out to tell Tyler’s story without a word, letting the shift in reality from normalcy to abnormality dole out the narrative. Instead of directly saying that there is a problem between Tyler and his wife, players are drawn into a sense of discomfort. Players can feel that something is wrong from what they see in the world, and get a sense of it through the lens of distorted objects and places. But simply, Tyler’s life is literally turned upside down, and players get to watch it happen.
While Anamorphine can be played in VR or on desktop, VR adds something spectacular to the experience, making use of the naturally uncomfortable nature of the technology. Telling your body you’re not moving when your eyes are saying that you are can be a jarring experience, so when Anamorphine causes a dramatic shift in reality, players can feel it in a tactile way. The body is jarred by the experience when you shift from one place to the next. There is a discomfort, and in this exploration of memories turned unpleasant and painful, that sensation enhances what its developer is trying to do. Thinking on these moments hurts Tyler, and in a way, the player feels that as well.
Players are free to draw what they wish from the experience, taking their time to pore over the objects and memories in the game’s world at their own pace. There is no push to move forward, no enemy coming for the player. It is just themselves and the world around them, so they can take the time to really examine the places and objects, watching how they distort to show pain or the beauty in their intimacy when they show a private, personal moment.
Anamorphine is, at times, a wondrous and jarring experience, taking the player to places of pain and joy, and having them experience them through the VR. It lets the player feel these moments rather than dole out a story through text, narrating through a sense of connected emotions. It’s an incredible narrative style, and one that will only get more intriguing as the game nears release.