This pretty little game is a lesson in graphic simplicity, while providing an honest, emotional narrative that will no doubt hit a nerve for anyone dealing with sadness or self-doubt. Sea of Solitude's balance of dark/light gameplay, cartoony style, and minimal score prove you don't need complex effects to tell an effective story. It may also go a long way towards removing the stigma surrounding mental illness. Kids who've suffered from depression will identify immediately with Kay, the heroine. She looks like a monster because she feels like a monster. And the semi-submerged city she finds herself in is an obvious metaphor for her isolation and feeling of drowning in her own emotions.
Early on, Kay realizes how unreliable her memory is, and how she's soothed her conscience by altering it. It's a survival mechanism even more mature people fall back on when life gets scary or complicated, and Kay surprisingly taps into it without thinking. There's one thing about conscience though; it has a pesky way of revealing the truth when we least want it, and the same happens to Kay. She's forced to confront some painful truths, but in the process finds a deeper understanding not only of herself, but of the people around her. She becomes a better sister, daughter, and friend. Gameplay reflects this by lighting up the environment and filling it with color, and it's undeniably satisfying to watch the transformation happen. And while you get a definite sense of accomplishment from helping Kay, the game doesn't rely on an unrealistically “pat” ending. As anyone with depression knows, it can't be conquered -- only managed. Sea of Solitude does an admirably sensitive job of conveying that, along with the mix of fear and optimism that comes with that knowledge. Seen strictly as a game, it's an adventure that's well worth your time. But as a tool for helping kids with depression feel less alone, it's worth a good deal more.