Bittersweet synth tunes, pastel colours, intro credits. I immediately think of a hip queer coming-of-age movie, but maybe that’s just me. I begin playing Into by animal phase.
The voice acting is a pleasant surprise, and helps set the scene: you’re whispering and not paying much attention to your art teacher. “Draw what you see, not what you know”, she says. One of the teens whispers “we wrote on our drawing”, clearly not giving a shit. Relatable.
Some parts of the conversation are funny; teens trying to sound deep is cringy only because everyone can see a bit of themselves in it. I realise that holding the mouse button allows me to focus on the ceiling fan and its repetitive, lulling whizz.
The game polishes all the right stuff. The UI icons are highly stylised, there are small sound effects as you interact, and the camera pivots slightly as you navigate the space. It’s minimal, but it works. My favourite detail, though, is the use of “focus bubbles”.
Focus bubbles are what you click on to move the game forward, but simply hovering over them rewards you with animations and extra context. In one scene, you can zoom into the dots on the ceiling, which are the subject of the conversation. The link between narrative and gameplay is satisfying, and this interaction adds a layer of nuance to a game that seems to be all about what is left unsaid.
There’s mentions of using another name, our perceptions of people, bodies. The theme of the game can be summarised by a single sentence delivered by the main character. “Do you ever feel like people see you wrong?” You have to click on each word to say it. It’s exhausting, uncertain, and hits home for me. Their vulnerability, even though they’re opening up to a close friend, kind of breaks my heart. Draw what you see, not what you know.
There are two bodies and they’re facing each other; male and female. You can’t see much as the shower made everything foggy and your breathing is jagged. The two shapes merge into each other. Into.
The game has an alternative title: “I Turned My Autobiography Into a Fictional Second-Person Surreal Coming-Out-Of-Age Dramedy and Now My Life Is Happier”. I hope it is, animal phase.