I’d like to issue a trigger warning for depression and suicide. The following game involves very disturbing and dark themes, most of which will be discussed in this review.
Better described as a visual novel, the product being reviewed is titled “Don’t Take This Risk”. It was released in August of 2016 by Poison Apple Tales, an independent and innovative team of content creators.
Anyway, if you’re still here, “Don’t Take This Risk” covers two main topics – suicide and depression. The experience is rather quick and features a very basic interface (just text boxes, pop-ups, and captions), but is worth the play. Taking about just 25 minutes to complete, it honestly leaves a message that will stick with you for years to come. That’s no joke, either. It is tragic, but in the end it is still a not real.
It starts off with a fill in the blank, asking “The voice that came over the phone was…”. The options, “cool and alluring” and “fun and charming”, lead into a surely chilling experience. A man of a French accent asks if he’s speaking with the suicide hotline, and this is where the visual novel truly begins. Obviously you’re just a bystander, but it is up to you to save him.
The first options available are to bluntly tell him no, or to tell him he has the wrong number. Either one takes a dark turn for the worst. From here, you need to try to stop him from ending his life. The conversation continues for the remainder of gameplay and only gets darker.
His words start off without any attachment and display common feelings such as hopelessness among many others (he even sends random videos and texts about his favorite ice cream), but get more personal as time goes on. Playing as a young woman whom the man on the line seems to be attracted to (he asks for your name and to “see you”), you have to avoid creating affective dependence while talking to him.
Be careful about what you say, and watch out for offering love that you can’t fulfill. Playing through and reading everything that is asked and said is truly a harrowing time, which is perpetually enhanced by the constant pitch-black background. One ending even involves meeting up with the man, which on the contrary doesn’t follow the consistent pattern of phone conversation.
“Don’t Take This Risk” is, according to many who play it, the most personal and haunting game they’ve ever experienced. From my time spent playing through it, I can agree. The dialogue and texts are things from a movie, from a book, and unfortunately presumably from real-life situations. Pick your choices wisely, but try to remember it’s still just a game.
The theme of suicide is constantly attacking, and the man being attacked is clearly struggling. I must issue somewhat of a spoiler here, though. There are several possible outcomes, with the worst one being quite obvious. Anyway, the confusion of not knowing what to say next and not having any power (one ending involves hearing the man choking to death) really builds stress and fear in one’s mind. The crazy part is that it ACTUALLY has that effect on whoever is behind the computer. It is sad, and honestly made me want to cry.
Depression is so commonly displayed throughout the visual novel, and is a true wake-up call to those who are unaware of the mental disease. Common symptoms of feeling worthless, using drugs and alcohol to cope, and others are shown. This game is a learning tool too, in the sense that it informs one of the signs of depression. Knowing those signs could lead to finding help in a real situation, and saving someone’s life.
The overall message is so brutally strong that it almost seems necessary to play. In society, mental health and suicide are disgustingly never sufficiently discussed and playing this game, despite being just a “game”, is a genuine simulation of them. Do yourself a favor and play “Don’t Take This Risk”. No, it and its sensitive subjects are not fun but it is important.
If you personally are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts or know of someone who is, seek help and don’t be afraid to call for yourself or refer someone to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.