Mental health, even today, is difficult to discuss openly. It is however, a topic that is often discussed in a number of independent games, which is a welcome change from what can be found in the mainstream. Sea of Solitude puts you squarely in the shoes of Kay, a young woman from alone and adrift on a small boat in the middle of the sea. During her journey, the player will learn of her various struggles and the emotional toll it takes to confront them.
Kay will find herself constantly hounded by her inner demons manifested as large sea monsters. They will constantly hound and toy with her, forcing Kay to consistently question her motivation and will. No matter where you go, Sea of Solitude does an excellent job of making you feel uneasy. As you navigate the world you will encounter other monsters, each representing personal relationships of Kay and these are thankfully given ample time to flesh out their backstories.
Each encounter represents a puzzle that is relatively easy to solve but unfortunately, gameplay in Sea of Solitude isn’t its strongest feature. Outside of navigating the boat and swimming to avoid a certain persistent foe, the puzzle sections tend to handle clumsily, which can be frustrating because you can quickly become overhwlemed. Thankfully, these are over fairly quickly and you can resume exploring this melancholy but beautiful world.
Outside of its strong narrative, Sea of Solitude features high production values that will leave you in awe at certain sections. The visuals are beautiful and everything is wonderfully animated giving life to the different environments. The music is tremendous and perfectly encapsulate Kay’s current situation. If you find yourself in clear waters, a tranquil melody will play in the background, if it happens to be rainy or the situation is dark, then a more sinister tune can be heard.
Sea of Solitude is a title that isn’t meant to be experienced by everyone. It pulls no punches and there may be more than a few moments that hit close to home. While the monsters are manifestations of Kay’s mental illness, it’s clear that these are derived from real life experiences and could possible act as triggers. The different stories and events told throughout the game are intimate and personal, which in turn could have a far greater impact on the player.
Its always refreshing when a developer takes the time to discuss mental health issues as we tackle them in a number of different ways. For some, these are day to day battles that can take an incredible toll on that individual’s well being. Sea of Solitude shows the effects on not only the individual, but everyone else around them and creates a compelling story that wanders where few developers dare.
You may not be impressed by the overall gameplay featured within Sea of Solitude, but Kay’s story will stick with you well after completion. It is a journey well worth experiencing and may be one that you connect with as well.