Mental Illness is a sensitive subject. Those of us that do not suffer from it can be thankful and at the same time we cannot understand what a sufferer is going through. So the 64,000 dollar question is raised, should it be used as the core of a game? Is it being exploitative? How can it be used as 'entertainment'?

Well let's cover that last part first. It isn't entertainment. It's for want of a better term edutainment.

This is now Outlast clone where you are pursued by a bunch of psychopaths armed to the teeth with anything not bolted down to the floor. This is a virtual exploration of the human psyche, and in some ways has a documentary style that highlights the way actual patients were treated both in the terms of treatments but sadly the abuse handed to them by those supposedly working to help them and give them comfort.

With tales of abuse in real life within the Church and children's homes it just goes to show that the more that things change, some things stay tragically the same.

This game is also based on real life events and genuine case studies so again some would question that this is a suitable subject for what is after all a video game. But again I stress it's NOT a game, well OK it is. You do control a character through a journey via the D-Pad, solve some puzzles and explore a digital world. So in that aspect it is a game...but....

If it seems that I am struggling to sum this up, well yes I am because this is a game that in some ways seems to be defying what a game should be. Like I said there are no slavering monsters, no psychopaths out for blood. You do not tote a selection of death dealing weapons, you don't have to fight for survival.

You have to piece together the main characters shattered memories and try and figure out what's 'real' and what is just going on inside her head.

Presentation

Textures and lighting are very nicely rendered and here is where I stand up in defence of this title.

Some reviews criticise it for a lack of variety in the interiors. Well this is after all, an asylum. Like any other institutional building like a school or hospital, one corridor will look pretty much like another. 

Same for the interiors. You've seen one hospital ward, you've seen them all so I'm going to cut it some slack here.  What is presented, whether it's in the 'normal' world or the slightly surreal and distorted view of her environment in her head, is very well done. I have no quibbles over this at all.

Be warned medical diagrams are presented in very realistic ways.

Music

The official theme is a haunting and melodic tune with just a hint of melancholy. In the game itself, then the music fades to be replaced with faint echoes of voices, footsteps and opening and closing doors. This reminded me of Layers of Fear but again I stress though the things you learn about what was done to the patients IS horrific, it's not a horror game though it can send shivers up the spine.

So....

We get to finish line by saying this, it's not the fastest paced game in the world. Your character cannot run, and puzzles are quite simple to solve and through some sort of relationship factor which to be honest I couldn't quite come to grips with, you will get to one of the games ending's.

It can end two ways I know of, but rumour has it there's a third ending. 

It also in the latter part of the game, takes you outside of the confines of the asylum  and you get to explore the gardens and then BAM you are back in the asylum, with little or no warning. I guess that this reflects the fragmented and jumbled state of the main characters mind and memories but it still jars and leaves you wishing you could explore more exteriors.

There are also some slow loading times to contend with. That has been addressed with an update recently and that also sorted out some minor graphical and sound glitches otherwise they would have been highlighted, but the load times although speeded up are still somewhat slow.

It's also short, in a brief period of time, say no more than two or perhaps two and a half hours, I found myself on chapter 7. This won't take long to complete unless you are a completist and want to search every nook and cranny for photographs, files and pages of the main characters case study but even with this Layers of Fear type exploration and new areas being mysteriously accessible after they were previously locked, this will take I'd say 12 hours or so to complete and again, the completist may want to unlock all the endings but if not then replay value is lacking.

As an insight into mental illness it works well. If by the end you are not thinking 'my God, how can human beings do that to each other?' or not wiping a tear from your eye then you are made of stern stuff.

So arguments about whether you can call this a game or not aside, you will get an emotional, gut wrenching, slightly stomach turning experience. Prepare for something different, prepare for revelations and for an experience whether good or bad will linger in your mind long after you've put the controller down. And if that's what it intended, then job done and done reasonably well.