Depression and isolation are, unfortunately, all too common in this day and age. And COVID-19 isn’t helping things either. Luckily for us, indie developer Cael O’Sullivan launched Shut In, a brand new game for us to enjoy indoors.
Shut In is a short, narrative-driven game about depression, isolation, and mental health. It depicts the “struggles of self-care, motivation, and leaving home,” and frankly it is all starting to sound a little too real…
Your goal in Shut In is pretty simple: go outside and get some fresh air. But this seemingly mundane task becomes a monumental challenge when even getting out of your room is a puzzle. Once you do get out of bed and your room, you explore a twisted, alien version of your own house, in an attempt to find the way out.
The game combines elements of survival horror with classic adventure games, in a similar way to another recently indie horror game – Dead Dreams. However, Shut In adds a sarcastic, almost berating tone to its sinister and surreal horror imagery.
Every time you try to do the simplest of things, like taking a shower, eating your breakfast, or even going downstairs, you keep hitting obstacle after obstacle and usually end up dying horribly. You’ll get eaten by bugs, crushed by furniture, fall to your death, and more. All the while, the narrator keeps mocking you and trying to convince you to go back to bed and “try again tomorrow.”
Even though Shut In is a very short game, I did get stuck multiple times, however not for very long. It did take me an embarrassing amount of time to solve the very first puzzle, only because I missed the exact point I was supposed to click on. But if you make sure to interact with everything, you’ll find the solution eventually.
Getting stuck, or even a little frustrated, feels… appropriate. It’s perfectly synced with the game’s ultimate goal: to highlight how difficult it is to deal with depression and taking care of your mental health.
“I don’t want to make a game about what you should be doing instead of being depressed,” O’Sullivan says. “I want to try and capture how it actually feels when you’re in it, and show how hard simple things can become. But also make it a fun and funny experience. It’s a tough balance to try and perfect.”
Shut In was developed mostly by a single person, but with the support of Hidden Track, an interactive theatre company that has had to stop their work due to COVID-19. They continue to support creative endeavors, like indie games.
According to both the developer and publisher, the game is supposed to be the perfect distraction during the quarantine. After playing it, I can’t say for sure if it’s a distraction or a grim reminder. It is funny, though.