Can you hear the voices, too?
September 23, 2007
Mental illness is often used as a dramatic catalyst in fiction, from Shakespeare to “A Beautiful Mind,” and while its portrayal in films and novels varies greatly in verisimilitude, in video games, it is remarkably narrow. In particular, the trope of “your character has woken up with no memory and is accused of an awful crime,” might as well qualify for a genre of game, somewhere on the shelf between “action” and “strategy.” While video game antagonists generally portray a wider array of symptoms, from sociopathy accompanied by hallucinations to sociopathy with a side of narcissism, by the end of the game, the player’s illness is generally explained as the result of happenstance or a transient phenomenon, while the villain’s peculiarities are never explored in depth.
While I am generally in favor of stopping megalomaniacal psychopaths, it would be interesting if games occasionally threw some well-rounded characters with real mental illnesses into the mix, which makes ProgZmax’s “Mind’s Eye” a unique adventure. The game begins with the player’s character recovering from an seemingly ubiquitous bout of amnesia; however, the tone is a bit different from other games, insofar as this rude awakening occurs not in a heavily-fortified military installation, nor in the back alley near a crime scene, but in the confines of a mental hospital. While the protagonist’s quest for self-knowledge inevitably puts him at loggerheads with the staff (some of whom are much more understanding than others), he soon comes across a sympathetic group of other patients who are definitely ill; and not just with dramatic amnesia, either.
These interactions add substance to the gameplay of “Mind’s Eye.” While many of the game’s puzzles are fairly simple (and some a little frustrating), they become more urgent with the sense that you aren’t just completing them to advance the story, you’re trying to save yourself *and* make life better for the other patients.
The graphics are strong, with good animation throughout. As with many adventure games, there is a fair amount of pixelation, which is often a matter of individual taste, but despite the low resolution, the graphics do a good job of both setting the mood and conveying the characters’ emotions. Some well-employed Beethoven in the soundtrack also helps to elevate moments of reflection and tension.
An exciting narrative of escape and discovery, worth checking out for both interesting characters and a classic plot twist or two.