“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents… some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new Dark Age.” – H.P. Lovecraft
DKLS is an experimental game designed to make players question their existence and reality through dissociative kinesthetic learning – a series of games within the game.
Developer: Pedro Gilabert
Released: 23rd September 2021
Content Warning: This game (and review) discusses topics surrounding mental health and may be upsetting to some readers.
The game opens in a room on a spaceship, seemingly inhabited by an avid gamer who is taking part in the DKLS program. Players must explore the ship and find a way to access the various games that will allow them to become different objects such as a car, cactus or penguin! However, getting to this stage is confusing and frustrating. The instructions are dotted throughout the game environment, as are the various controls such as volume and mouse sensitivity which is entirely unintuitive.
The controls are unconventional, for example, Q used to interact, unless the player wishes to move an object then they must mouse click and drag! There are also some performance issues giving the game a somewhat janky feel, especially when moving the camera. Such issues serve to make the already challenging tasks even more exasperating.
Narrative and Styling
The game has a very basic 3D art style, it doesn’t offer anything original in terms of visuals and most of the models were probably free or bought assets and not created by the developer. Similarly, there are minimal sound effects and music is limited to interactions with objects such as the TV limiting the sense of immersion.
In terms of the narrative, the game’s storyline is vague at best. There are clearly multiple inhabitants of the spaceship, all taking part in the DKLS program but their individual interests are plastered everywhere making the characters feel superficial and undeveloped.
There seems to be a strangely positive focus on dissociation, using it as a therapy technique to enhance skills and general enjoyment, it is presented as something to aim for. As somebody who experiences dissociation and the complications such as memory loss that go with it, I find this highly problematic. Other troublesome incidents include air-locked rooms that serve no purpose but to allow the player to commit suicide by releasing themselves into space and stumbling across a packet of paliperidone (an anti-psychotic) taking them and tripping out.
In short, DKLS is a mediocre example of everything that it tries to do. The gameplay is frustrating, the performance issues make it more so, the styling is lacklustre and the handling of the themes relating to mental health is tactless and insensitive. I would not recommend this title to anyone.
For games that approach mental health themes in a healthier way, check out:
Five Free Games that Attempt to Tackle Mental Health Issues – 10 Uplifting Games for Self Care and Mental Wellbeing – How Kind is Kind Words (lo-fi chill beats to write to)?