Full Disclosure: I was given a pre-release copy of this game for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own. You can learn more about my disclosure policy here.
To those of us living with serious anxiety, even seemingly mundane tasks can take on epic proportions. Such is the case of Samantha Browne, protagonist of The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne. Samantha is a fairly typical university student, away from home for the first time and not exactly comfortable dealing with people face to face. Ever. Her epic task? Manage to leave her dorm room and make herself some oatmeal for dinner.
Is oatmeal the best choice for dinner? No, not really. But Samantha’s not going to eat in the cafeteria with a bunch of… ugh, strangers! Something horrible could happen. And so it falls to you dear player to help Samantha leave her room, cook her oatmeal, and then retreat back to safety to eat.
While all this sounds pretty straightforward, The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne clearly demonstrates how agonizing even the most mundane of tasks can become when you’re dealing with an anxiety disorder. And yet, anxiety isn’t always the monster we assume it to be. The player has to carefully way whether certain anxious instincts are going to help or hurt Samantha in her quest for sustenance, but the correct choice isn’t always the most obvious. Choices in the game tread a fine line between cheerleading, bullying and self care. Sometimes the bold choice isn’t the best one, likewise the safe one.
While the game is relatively short –average play time seems to be about 15 – 20 minutes– it isn’t exactly easy. It took me four playthroughs before I was able to shepherd Samantha safely to the kitchen and back again with her oatmeal. The number of ways a simple trip to the kitchen could go wrong are startling, but at the same time very relatable for a number of people. The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne does a great job of demonstrating how games can put players into the shoes of people dealing with invisible illnesses, and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you finally get Samantha eating her oatmeal is genuine and satisfying.
Essentially a visual novel style game, all of your choices are made though dialogue boxes. We never see Samantha’s face or hear her voice, making the character a vessel for the player’s own hopes and fears. The game is written in a lively, wry tone, revealing Samantha’s vibrant inner life, despite her trouble engaging with the world around her. A brief moment where choosing your one available spoon is turned into a game show both prepares the player for the types of mundane victories you’ll be grasping for, and demonstrates Samantha’s more whimsical side. It would have been easy to turn Samantha into some sort of victim, a casualty of her own anxious mind, but instead she is portrayed as a three dimensional woman with her own limits and preferences.
While not yet released, The Average Everyday Adventures of Samantha Browne is a great example of a fun, but still powerful game experience that anyone can enjoy. It is slated for a Spring 2016 release on iOS, Mac and PC. You can find out more or watch the trailer on the official website.