Sym

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Sym Game Poster Image
Clever puzzler addresses social anxiety disorder.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Sym takes a look at social anxiety disorder. The central character, Josh, feels he's constantly being watched and judged. His inner world is just as tormented. He understands he needs to change, and that's part of the journey the game takes. But Sym doesn't analyze the disorder or attempt to uncover reasons behind it; rather it offers self-empowerment through positive messages that enable Josh to understand that the only person who has a right to judge his actions is him and that he's the master of his world. This is all subtext to the main platform-puzzle game, and it's handled well. Sym empowers players while opening much-needed dialogue about an emotionally charged and sensitive condition.

Positive Messages

Uses positive reinforcement to remind protagonist that he has value, rules his world. Acknowledges the need to change perceptions to become less afraid of external, internal doubts, fears. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though protagonist struggles with fears, people watching him, he develops a willingness to change through positive reinforcement.

Ease of Play

Simple controls; easy to learn; puzzles get progressively harder.

Violence

Player must avoid monsters, hostile flowers, eyeballs representing real-life fears, blades representing tricks of the mind. No blood, but contact with these objects restarts level.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sym is a downloadable puzzle-platform game. It focuses on the two worlds of the central character, Josh, touching on his real-world doubts and fears as well as his internal conflicts. But the game doesn't dwell on that aspect, although the text-driven story and dialogue pointedly discuss social anxiety disorder and use text in puzzles to point toward a need to change attitudes and increase self-empowerment. This element of the game likely will spawn discussion, and parents should be prepared to answer questions about fears and doubts. There's no objectionable content; though there are monsters and other items that represent the fears of the protagonist, contact with them simply results in a restarting of the level.

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What's it about?

In SYM, the protagonist, Josh, is a kid with social anxiety disorder. He feels the world is watching and judging him. To deal with his external and internal fears, he creates two alter egos, Caleb and Ammiel. Caleb lives in the real world and is assailed by fears of being judged. There also are other things to be worried about, such as monsters and deadly flowers. Ammiel lives in the dark world, which is Josh's internal world. This world contains tricks that his mind has created, and it can be just as hazardous. Josh is aware that though his alter egos struggle through these worlds, his life has to change, which is conveyed through text posted on each level. On the surface, this is a platform-puzzle game that requires some problem-solving to get Josh from Point A to the doorway, which is Point B, to leave the level. There are 44 levels in all, but the game comes with an editor option that allows players to build their own levels.  

Is it any good?

Although Sym may appear to be too easy at first glance, it actually has a great deal of challenge and depth. Sure, you can fly through some puzzles at the start, but to fully explore the game you'll need to use some keyboard dexterity and problem-solving skills. That's particularly true as you try to navigate both the white world (which represents reality) and the dark world (which represents the mind) across the game's 44 levels.

Sym doesn't rely on heavy special effects; its black-and-white presentation looks childlike, but the jumping between worlds is a nice touch and handled quite well. As players move between worlds, the sound changes. The music is more muted when Josh is in the dark world, but music and other noise is much louder in the white world. The positive-reinforcement messages on each stage also are a nice touch. If there are any drawbacks, the game is awfully short, but the level editor can help prolong the experience. Sym is a solid platformer that elevates itself through the issue it addresses. What may seem simple at the onset is actually a nice little gem of a game.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what social anxiety is. Can you come up with ways for people who have fears to deal with these problems in constructive ways?

  • Discuss what constitutes a good puzzle game and which skills may be needed to come up with solutions to the puzzles.

Game details

Themes & Topics

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