Developed By: The Working Parts
Published By: Bulbware
Category: Survival, Horror
Release Date: 29.07.2020
In starting They Breathe, I had to do a quick Google search for the word Thalassophobia, which if you don’t know, means a fear of the sea. This includes everything from a fear of deep water to being far from land. They Breathe plays off this fear as its central theme, where your only objective is to go deeper.
Without spoiling too much – there isn’t, after all, much to spoil – They Breathe is a game about a frog who must swim to the bottom of a pond for reasons only explained by a shifting camera. The lack of a story or reason to swim deeper seems to be intentional, so you as the player discover for yourself the horrors of the dark waters. It doesn’t take long to understand you aren’t alone, despite how much the eerie sounds and unwelcoming sight of an endless plunge may convince you otherwise. How could anything survive down here?
That question is quickly answered and – again without giving away too much of the game’s threadbare plot – you’ll shortly encounter new forms of parasitic life chasing other frog survivors. They Breathe gives you the option to use them as bait for your own survival or help them to the surface by bumping them into air bubbles that appear throughout the screen. This process of darting around the water, either avoiding horrible jellyfish-like aliens that sound like cattle or trying to save as many frogs as you can, is about all there is to do.
The stakes grow higher as you go deeper, but in the end, even after dying multiple times because I couldn’t see where enemies would respawn, I was able to finish the game in about half an hour. They Breathe was difficult because it felt cheap. More often than not, enemies would appear without warning and blindside me into others. After enough trial and error, I was able to survive the onslaught while collecting the precious air around me I needed to continue.
Saying anything more about the gameplay would ruin the brief experience, but as someone who openly admits to a fear of deep water and the mystery of the sea, They Breathe was hardly scary. Sure, the music was unsettling, and your enemies guttural cries for help as they slowly drown were unpleasant to hear. But aside from all that, there was nothing truly horrifying about the game. It’s all over before any of it has a chance to frighten you.
They Breathe has an interesting idea built on the fear of going deeper in the darkness without knowing why or what you may encounter. However, the experience is far too short for any of the few scary moments to really settle in your mind or build any tension. Even for the price of a cheap beer, it’s hard to recommend unless you feel determined to rescue every frog who gambled with the deep.
*Game Download Code supplied for review purposes