A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The story addresses tough issues like depression, divorce, and suicide, but the overall theme is optimistic and covers how to manage and overcome these problems.
Positive Role Models
The heroine is flawed like most people, but learns important lessons throughout the adventure.
Ease of Play
The content here features a lot of straightforward puzzle/platformer gameplay. There are some challenging timed sections that require fast reflexes.
Violence & Scariness
Monsters eating the heroine could upset younger kids. The in-game dialog makes mention of suicide and bullying. There are also sections where kids say things like, "We'll find you and we'll kill you."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The game includes slight flirty talk in memories recalled by the heroine.
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One instance of the word "s--t."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sea of Solitude is a downloadable puzzle platformer for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. The gameplay focuses on complex psychological and emotional themes, and its storyline confronts the issues of depression, suicide, bullying, and divorce. The heroine can be killed (eaten by a frightening monster), while areas darkness and fanged shadow monsters could be too scary for young kids. Dialog among dysfunctional family members and between an unhappily married couple could also be too intense. Mild suggestive themes occurs in two instances, and there's one occurrence of the word "s--t."
Is It Any Good?
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.
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