Originally released in 2014, They Breathe is a short but memorable unconventional downloadable title. Playing as a frog that descends into the depths of the sea, players are left to figure out what to do and how to progress all without any tutorial, dialog, or hud.
I want to try and avoid spoilers here because experimenting and learning through quick bursts of trial and error is what makes They Breathe so captivating. In short, the player is faced with creepy enemies that spawn in the waters, using tiny randomly floating bubbles as a weapon, health, and defense. As enemies spawn, it basically becomes a game of keep-away, trying to stay away until each enemy drowns or mutates. They Breathe is often described as a horror game but it isn’t filled with cheap jump scares. Instead, it is more disturbing than anything as the player can see how strongly each creature is fighting to survive in the deep, dark waters and you can listen to the muffled moans as they drown. Not to mention, enemies are composed of creepy moose heads and jelly fish with humanoid limbs. The morbidly dark art style also feeds directly into gameplay. The frog, for example, is animated with only a few frames which actually plays perfectly with the darkening theme.
Although it is a little unsettling, They Breathe features some unique gameplay. Since the frog has no offensive capabilities, the player is left to avoid danger by dashing out of the way and using the environment to stay alive. Occasionally the playable frog will encounter other frogs that can be saved. However, if you are not quick enough, these companions could be turned into monsters or can also drown, furthering the cruel and disturbing factor. Also, saving frogs has an effect on the ending too. Smartly, just as the gameplay starts to get repetitive, the quest ends without overstaying its welcome. It can be finished in one sitting but there are definitely moments of high but fair challenge.
They Breathe is an unexpected short and sweet sleeper hit gem. The minimalistic presentation and figure-it-out gameplay is a breath of fresh air, drowning pun intended. This Switch release also features a newly implemented two player local co-op mode, providing a quality incentive for fans of the original or curious new comers. For a game that features no attacking, it sure is morbidly violent and rather unnerving. These adjectives should not be confused with low quality for un-fun as the end result is an experience that will stay with you long after the power is switched off.
Also available on PC and mobile.
Also Try: Feeding Frenzy
Much Darker Than: arcade Frogger
Wait For It: a sequel to A Kappa’s Trail (DSiWare)