Developer: Numinous Games
Release Date: 1/11/2016
Rating: Everyone 10+
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The Good: Fantastic story and audio experience, real life elements add to the emotional roller coaster, interesting stylized art
The Bad: Almost zero gameplay, actual graphics are really bad, only 90 minutes long, requires some sort of real life connection to cancer or children to feel anything
I love games that are emotional roller coasters as they bring out emotions that AAA games just can’t achieve these days. The indie games are usually the best when it comes to story and characters, and That Dragon, Cancer isn’t a good game, but a good story. Seriously, gameplay wise this game sucks, but if you come for the story you will feel some heavy stuff.
I personally took this game to heart as I have my own son on the way and the things that this family went through brought out some emotions I’ve never felt before. A little boy named Joel is battling brain cancer with his family, and you go through the emotional turmoil mostly through metaphors. The game captures most of the parents (the dad is part of the development team and helmed this game) memories that are both good and bad. There’s literally zero gameplay involved as you click through levels with flat colored textures and listen to audio recordings of the family or read letters from other people that are actually real. The emotions didn’t really kick in until about halfway through the game where you really start to feel the parents’ suffering with this battle.
Outside of clicking to the next area there are little mini-games, but games is saying a lot. There’s no objective to various “tasks” like having Joel dodge cancer cells in space, clicking on constellations as they turn into animals and he rides them etc. These are timed and don’t have any clear goal; you literally just wait it out. As a game, this is one serious piece of a turd, but I didn’t care as I wanted more of the story and that’s hard to pull off. The best (or worst) part of the game is walking around a hospital and reading real letters in forms of cards from real people, there a good hundred of them. The biggest memory was the dad sitting in the hospital room with Joel with what seems is a real recording of him wailing in pain as the dad goes through emotional battles in the form of visual metaphors that you listen to him narrate. The crying hit a nerve with me as the dad tells him to stop crying and Joel is bashing his head against the crib. It’s honestly disturbing but great at the same time.
The game is only about 90 minutes long and everyone will walk away with this as a crappy game, but great story. I wish they concentrated on the gameplay elements more as you can tell that was on the back burner. The father was so anxious to get this out he forgot it’s actually a game. Most children won’t play it as it requires patience and a soul and heart to understand; anyone going through cancer or survived it should relate, or anyone who adores their children. If you’re a typical heartless gamer…stay away.