‘They Breathe’ Review – They’re Just About Alive
I like indie games for one particular reason: they’re allowed to be weird, more daring and more innovative than major label games. The soundtracks usually possess more charm and the art style always has a unique feel about it. In all of these respects, They Breathe succeeds immensely.
They Breathe comes across somewhat like a Tim Burton incarnation of Frogger, the main aim of the game being to guide yourself, a rather unassuming frog, ever downwards in a nightmarish underwater forest whilst avoiding its somewhat creepy inhabitants. Whilst this is a rather simplistic goal that never really evolves much, it’s interesting and deeply atmospheric.
The game gives you a sense of its unusual style straight from the get-go with a minimalistic main screen that sees you simply sitting on a lily-pad without any prompts. This interesting opening is accompanied by some rather pleasing French-noir-esque music that’s a joy to listen to. It only takes a moment to figure out what you have to do as the game has very simple and intuitive controls, boiling down to basic movement and a boost button.
Once you get into the game, you’ll find yourself dealing with an endless stream of unusual aquatic foes, most of which look like an underwater moose. In descending the world, you’re constantly trying to keep yourself alive by gathering floating air bubbles and dealing with the enemies. Some simply require you to avoid them long enough for them to drown, whilst others require a slightly more tactical approach. There may not be much to the game, but it’s easy to get sucked into a lengthy session.
If you’re unfortunate enough to fall prey to one of your aquatic nemeses, the game simply puts you back at that stage, allowing you to continue your journey downwards unabated. Dying is something you’re likely to encounter a lot (I certainly did) as you’ll have to work out what particular method each new foe needs to be dealt with. It never takes too long, but it does take a certain level of trial-and-error to find a winning strategy.
Rather unfortunately, the game doesn’t remember progress over separate sessions, meaning leaving the game and coming back will see you start from the beginning again. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue except for the identical pattern of enemies you’ll face. In truth, any subsequent playthrough of the game becomes a little monotonous as you navigate down past the exact same creatures you faced last time. This severely limits the game’s lasting appeal, which is a huge shame given its all-round character.
On the whole, They Breathe is one of the more thought out games on the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace, boasting a quaint charm that’s generally lacking. The music is a particular highlight that matches perfectly with the game’s cohesive and distinct art style. The game is only marred by its repetitive nature, meaning that past maybe 2 or 3 plays you’re unlikely to find much more enjoyment from it. They Breathe is a fun and interesting game, but it just has a noticeable lack of real content that really counts against the overall experience.
Review summary Pros:
Distinctive art style and soundtrack
Very little replay value; bordering on over-simplistic gameplay