A desire to assist children and adults with awareness and understanding of anxiety drove Reframe Games to create Guide, which came out just this week. The game follows Fia, a recently hatched phoenix chick, after a storm knocked her from her tree. Fortunately, she has a guiding light to help her navigate through the dark night.
As always, I’ll start with what a player is going to notice first: the sights and sounds. The music is very soothing, though it occasionally strikes up some creepy stringed notes at tense moments.
Aesthetically, the game has a unique look that is consistent across the board, even though the art does change slightly between cutscenes and gameplay. It’s attractive in its simplicity. It fits its game well.
The start of the game follows essentially the same course as the demo I played for Guide over the summer at Games For Change Festival 2018. The game introduces its simple controls naturally, building skill on skill. You have directional movement, jumping, gliding, and the ability to start fires to burn through obstacles or light torches. There is no combat option, you just have to dodge projectiles from the eyes. I found keyboard controls more comfortable than the mobile apps’ controls, but I think that’s more of a personal preference than an indicator of anything else.
The game elements are also fairly self-explanatory. Although there are directives to introduce players game elements, like mushrooms as jump pads, an experienced gamer will pick up on things easily enough with or without them. That said, these directives are enough to help out a player that is just being introduced to video games adequately. Visual elements help give players direction without spoon-feeding, as well. Solving puzzles is a satisfying endeavor that challenges but rarely frustrates.
The game is split into six levels which are separated by cutscenes and checkpoints. These cutscenes are bookended with questions such as “Have you ever felt alone with others?” or “Have you ever questioned your inner voice?” As was mentioned above, Guide is meant to help children and adults understand anxiety better. Although it can be purchased and played at home, the original intention for the game was for it to be played during therapy sessions. The therapist can assist a child struggling with level elements, and at the end of each section, the therapist can help the child unpack and connect the game to real-life situations.
Seemingly, each level would line up with one session, providing a different discussion topic each session. As I said in my hands-on article for the game, I’d love to get in on or observe the full, intended experience.
I will say that playing it in one fell swoop–not the intended manner, remember–does make for a game that feels short. However, collectible items in the form of Fia’s sensory objects provide an incentive to go back and explore more, and if you really enjoy certain levels, you can skip to them right from the start screen to play whenever you want.
— GUIDE (@Guidethegame) December 5, 2018
My favorite part of the game was the end. I won’t spoil it–I will just say that it is open to interpretation. I suspect that the message is to assure a player that they’re not the only one who can be affected by anxiety. That’s a powerful message, and it forgoes the need for a dramatic climax that Fia’s guiding light seems to be riling her up for throughout the game. It was a nice change of pace from other video games (and other stories in general!) to have that particular expectation thwarted in Guide’s climax.
Ultimately, Guide works as both a game that can help children and adults unpack and handle their anxiety and a game that anyone, veteran gamers or not, can sit down and have a good time with, as many times as they would like. I do think that this game will prove itself able to effectively fulfill its creators’ intended goals whether played with a therapist or discovered on its own.
Guide was released on December 5 for PC and Android and can be purchased here. Guide will be released for certain iOS devices soon as well.