I Am Dead

Game review by
Angelica Guarino, Common Sense Media
I Am Dead Game Poster Image
Mature themes handled delicately in heartwarming puzzler.

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The game centers around five potential prospects for the island’s new guardian spirit, and each one is positively remembered for their empathy and oddity. Though one character in this bunch, a campsite manager named Greg, isn't as socially adept as the others, it's his love for the island's birds which reveals his true intentions. In addition, each character who recalls mistreating Greg ends their story by expressing genuine remorse for doing so.

Positive Role Models

There are a few characters that show great behavior. Morris’ character, for example, shows a lasting commitment to preserving his hometown’s history. Pete Noach, a former soldier who converts the town’s lighthouse into a popular spot for yoga retreats, is universally remembered as a force supporting the spiritual journey of many. Samphire, a half-fish, half-person living in a town economically supported by fishermen, leads a peaceful and successful activist movement to stop the unnecessary killing of sea creatures.

Ease of Play

Though the controls aren't complicated, there are no directions for the puzzles, creating a bit of awkwardness each time a new mechanic is introduced. This is easily overcome, but worth mentioning.

Violence

A sizable story arc focuses on the town’s complicated history with their annual culling of a fictional animal species called Morlo, though it focuses on that tradition being seen as morally wrong. Also, there's an incident towards the end of the story where a woman asks her daughter to kill her in order to fulfill a prophecy to save the island. Though we don’t see it, there's a description of how it happens.

Sex
Language

Aside from one tame reference to someone yelling an expletive, there are no inappropriate words heard or shown on screen.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one of the memories told about a young girl named Valerie, she and a friend steal alcohol and drink it while underage. This is seen as a positive memory and the girls aren't punished. There are rare instances of characters holding either a pipe or a cigarette, but no smoke is seen coming from either. There's also a hidden illegal distillery featured in one scene and a subtle joke in another suggesting that the characters “hope no one has spiked the punch bowl” at their beach party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Dead is a downloadable puzzle-driven adventure game available for Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs. Players experience the town of Shelmerston by following Morris Lupton, the warm, sincere curator for the town museum, and his beloved dog Sparky. The twist -- they’re both dead! After the introduction to the main goal of the game -- finding a new guardian spirit to watch over the island -- the tasks involved center around simple puzzles meant to piece together the memory of five deceased island dwellers, though players are given no information on how to complete these tasks. While this is a story of fondly remembered characters, there are a few cartoonish depictions of violence and alcohol consumption that younger kids may not fully understand.

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What's it about?

I AM DEAD is a tale exploring themes centered around the nature of love, compassion, and memories. The main character, Morris Lupton, is the recently deceased curator for the town’s history museum. There are two things he loves more than anything else: the town of Shelmerston and his dog, Sparky. The story begins with a surprise visit from Sparky as Morris shares the details of his newfound “life” after death. An overjoyed Morris starts to ask questions, and with that, the two are on a mission to solve the island’s most pressing problem. Shelmerston is guarded by a spirit whose energy keeps the island’s seemingly dormant volcano from erupting. The spirit currently on the job is past the 3000th year of her term and preparing to retire. It's up to Morris and Sparky to investigate potential replacement candidates for the job and ultimately protect their home from devastation.

Is it any good?

Though the main characters may be dead, this town of Shelmerston feels alive. I Am Dead strikes an intricate balance between showing a kind of character that you'd recognize as well as ones you’ve never seen before. For instance -- take Morris' dog, Sparky. She loves dog things like tennis balls and belly rubs, but hates human things like riddles and orchestras. Another outstanding element is the logical basis for each of the puzzles. It's rare for a story-driven puzzle game to be as fully integrated as this one. Hidden items are always found in places that aren't too obvious, but they make sense. It’s always possible to picture how the item ended up in that place, whether it's mentioned in the story or not, which is a small, yet compelling feature. There are many emotionally engaging details in each scene as well, such as the island’s furious curiosity towards the supposedly mythical creatures called “camels” and the fact that many of the town’s stray cats have names. Lastly, players control the pace at which the game progresses, creating a relaxing experience. Once the necessary story elements are complete in each scene, players have the freedom to choose whether to stick around and find all collectible items or further the story.

When discussing a topic as difficult as death, it is also notable that the game never mentions how each of the deceased characters passed away. Instead, the story chooses to pull focus to their lasting effect on those who love them most. This is another seemingly minor detail that sharpens the experience and communicates its message in a remarkably positive manner. It manages to tell both an emotionally moving and comforting message about death -- that people you love not only live on in your memories, but shape your personalities and values. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how to remember loved ones who have passed on. How do we keep memories of people close to us? What role can sentimental items play in that?

  • If we see something wrong happening in our town, how do we speak up? Who do we tell, and what do we tell them to do? What can we do on our own, and what do we bring to the local government?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

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