They Breathe Review

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Developed by Swedish studio The Working Parts, They Breathe is deceptively simple and atmospheric, but it’s the unsettling realization in its final moments that will make you remember the game far longer than it takes to actually complete it.

You’re a frog on a log, looking down at the serene water below you. Diving in initially reveals trees, but little else. As you descend toward the bottom, you’re greeted by two other frogs seemingly gasping for air, and then suddenly you realize that those little bubbles you’ve been passing by are an invaluable resource. My instinct told me that it should be every frog for themselves, so I immediately dashed around the screen, taking in every air bubble I could. Sorry, suckers, but the objective of a game is to win!

As the frog dives deeper, strange creatures emerge that look like weird moose-like jellyfish things, but unlike your fellow amphibians, these guys are hostile! I immediately went in to survival mode, swimming around like a mad frog with everything to lose. Watching as other frogs ascended from the bottom, failing to escape the death-clutch of the jellymoose, I began to weave in and out harm’s way, doing my best to keep the other frogs between me and the creatures. After all, the objective of a game is to win.

Deeper and deeper I went, throwing my fellow froglings in to harms way just so I could make it to the bottom of the river’s floor. The complete absence of background music also has me on edge, as all I can hear are the ambient sounds of the river, my frog, and whatever these moose-things are, swooshing by. As my screen filled with newer, stranger creatures, I caught on to a few of their attack patterns and exposed their weaknesses by stealing their air or letting them swallow too much before exploding. Of course I could have always prolonged my life by luring them to the other frogs who are after my air.

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I became enlivened as I saw what seemed like the bottom of the river, feeling as though I had worked so hard to reach it. It was finally within my grasp, but upon closer inspection I suddenly experienced this uneasy feeling deep in my gut. Everything I had worked for, everything I expected and everything I had done up until this moment left me speechless and disgusted with myself. What occurs in the final moments of They Breathe is incredibly haunting. These weren’t jellymoose at all.

As an added bonus, upon completing They Breathe, you’re rewarded with access to developer notes that give a ton of fantastic information and insight as to how the game came to be. These notes were an interesting read and helped me appreciate and understand both the game and The Working Parts as developers a lot more in the end. From a technical standpoint, They Breathe isn’t very remarkable in terms of innovative controls or shiny graphics, but it more than makes up for it with brief moments of trepidation and its startling conclusion.

I approached They Breathe as a game, but it ended as an experience. How this 30-minute, seemingly arcade-based game about collecting bubbles and dodging foes somehow left me questioning myself, says a lot about The Working Parts as a developer. I enjoy games that cause me to reflect on my actions long after it’s over, especially when I’m blindsided by its underlying message. After all, the objective of a game is to win, right?

They Breathe Review

Recommended for fans of: Playing games that take you out of your comfort zone and make you question your actions.

*This review is based on the PC version of They Breathe which released on Steam May 23, 2014. Although it initially released in 2011 for the Xbox 360, consider this our definitive review.

Author Line

gamercard Bradley Keene is an avid gamer & aspiring writer from Baltimore, MD that handles news, reviews and editing here at What’s Your Tag?. If he’s not writing or knee-deep in an MMO, he’s usually watching low-budget horror films or following Orioles baseball. Follow him on Twitter, Twitch or contact him by e-mail. Love gaming? Join TEAM XBRO today!

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